Cook Islands, South Pacific

South Pacific Part 3: Aitutaki Sanbars and Crab Hunting

The 2nd day in Aitutaki, Cook Islands, we took a full day “Seven Wonders Cruise” with Kia Orana Cruise. The reason I picked this cruise is because it’s small group max of 10 people compared to those big boats. We were picked up at the parking lot across the channel from our hotel at 9 am and then dropped off at a beach where the boat was ready for us and other guests. Our captain known as Captain Fantastic and his wife took great care of us! First, we stopped at Rapota  Island where the TV series Shipwrecked and Survivor were filmed!

Captain Fantastic and his boat:

We got off the ship in knee-height water and walked to the island. We had time walk around and take photos…too bad it was completely cloudy that day!

Lost in paradise?

However, the cloudy sky made it comfortable to explore different motus “mini islands” without worrying about getting burned!

The island was like all ours! We did have a total of 11 guests plus Captain Fantastic and his wife but plenty space for us to scatter around for photos!

Next, we stopped at Moturakau Island where I found this very beautiful shell – those layers looked like a princess’ gown!

The island has a story of a father and daughter who came to this island to hide from enemies and found a cave. The dad noticed the birds’ unusual noises and aware that the enemies are coming. Their enemies set fire outside the cave and the dad died while the daughter survived. Captain Fantastic said there are still descendants of the daughter who survived in Aitutaki!

Captain Fantastic guided us to walk through the forest to reach the cave.

On the way, we saw this snow-white bird, the bird just sat there and staring at us as we walked by!

It’s not afraid of human and I slowly getting closer and closer to it for photos!

My brother got so close too and look at how sharp its peak is, we tried to stay a little bit distance in case it peak us LOL!

There are more birds along the way!

That’s the cave, that very narrow opening in the middle!

We found this sharp coned shape shell with a hermit crab inside.

On the way back, we saw this huge hermit crab; it was the largest we found during the trip. The hermit crab looked different than the rest, it was purple colored instead of red and obviously a lot bigger! Hubby suspected it to be a coconut crab! What do you think?

Next stop was Tekopua Island!

Look at how beautiful the sand and the water are!

Next, we made a stop at the most beautiful sandbar ever! It was like a dream, white powder sand in the middle of the lagoon!

The shades of turquoise color it was surreal!

Captain Fantastic said a lot of commercials were filmed here where they called heaven on earth! OH YES, it’s definitely a hidden paradise on earth!

I can not imagine how beautiful it will be when it’s blue sky and white clouds, I want to go back just for this sandbar!

We did spent a significant time here to take photos!

Coconut trees started to grow…maybe someday this will become an island?

I don’t want to leave!

But we had to 🙁 The 4th island we visited is the most famous of all – Tapuaetai Island commonly known as “One Foot Island”!!!

I read that people can book a room to stay in this island…I guess that’s the place?

Captain Fantastic came back and said that the stamp place is not open yet so we’ll get our passport stamp after lunch. He also warned us not to walk into the trees as he heard people got sting by bees recently! We walked around by water instead.

There, I found another pretty shell 🙂

The postcard location of One Foot Island!


Bigger cruise boat will arrive later and have lunch there. We’ll go to a smaller but more exclusive island for our lunch 🙂

One Foot Island being the most famous of course has its own story too. Captain Fantastic said there was a father and a son who ran here to escape from enemies (hum…where there a lot of enemies back them or tribes in war with each other?). Once they landed this island, the father told the son to walk straight through the beach to a tree and climb up to hide there and then he’ll follow. The father then step on his son’s foot prints to cover them up as if there’s only one set of footprints there. When the enemies arrived, they captured the father and saw only one set of footprints so they concluded only one person; they thought they saw two people on the boat. The father was killed and the son escaped because of his father’s sacrifice. The story became famous that they named the island as “One Foot Island”. I searched online on why the enemies came after them….you can read from here.

The fifth motus we stopped by was Motikitiu Island!

6th was Honeymoon Island! It is a sandbar but slowly growing into an island by the coconuts turning to coconut trees!

Does that look like you put a flag there to claim the land is yours? LOL!

I like the semi sandbar and island of Honeymoon Island!

I can never get tired of sandbars!

If I have to pick an uninhabited island to survive, this would be my choice!

Last island of the 7 islands: Maina Island where we had a delicious freshly prepared lunch by Captain Fantastic and his wife! While they are doing the cooking, we walked around the island for photos!

Crystal clear water and pristine white sand beach!

The only downside in paradise is toilet…….yikes I told hubby to stand around to make sure no one is near by! And good thing that I brought anti-bacterial gel and tissue with me!!!

Those tree roots… stabilizer itself in case of storm?

This is Captain Fantastic’s kitchen….those massive clam shells!

The picnic tables for our lunch!

More photos while waiting for food!

Food is ready wow wow like a feast! Ahhh that’s the use of those giant clam shells!

Captain Fantastic explained each dishes, yummy!

And he grilled fish!

OMG the parrot fish was the most delicious grilled fish we ever had! The meat is not dry nor overcooked; it was just right! Captain Fantastic, you are not only a captain, you are a great chef too!

Another must try was the papaya salad made by the captain’s wife – diced papaya mixed with curry sauce! I never ever imagine curry could be so matched with papaya – never in a million years! Those two turned out to be a perfect combination! OMG please book Kia Orana Cruise even if you don’t want to snorkel, just go for the lunch on the motu, it’s so worth it! Even my brother said so, he wanted to come back again just for the lunch!

I think I went back up three more times to get more papaya salad, it was that good! Hubby on the other hand got more papaya salad and fish! There were some guests in our tour who didn’t take fish so Jason went up and ask if he could have another piece. Captain Fantastic was so happy that Jason loved his grilled fish that he gave him two extra pieces haha!

After lunch, we went up to Captain Fantastic to get our passports stamped with the One Foot Island! That’s how it looks like as souvenir so don’t forget to take your passport with you and some change – it was like $3 per stamp!

Alright we were full and time for snorkeling! Captain Fantastic took us to two snorkeling spots, one was like a sandbar that it was only waist height water depth and then after a few feet was a total drop to deep water. Hubby and I stayed within the shallow water part as we didn’t have a life vest. If you are not a strong swimmer like us, bring your own life vest or contact Captain Fantastic in advanced to ask for them. His boat only has snorkeling masks, fins, and towels. This was our first try with our DSLR underwater housing instead of using the GoPro – much clearer underwater photos! There were so many sea cucumbers lying on the floor!

This massive fish was following our boat all along..probably knowing that he’ll get fed! Captain Fantastic poured our leftovers for them, in no time, they finished all our leftovers!

I asked my brother to take our camera to the deeper water for photos of the giant clams down there! I realized how hard was it to take underwater photos as it was a challenge to hold the camera immersed in the water (it kept trying to float up) and in place to hit the shuttle button since our body was constantly moving by the water! We did managed to get some good and clear snap shots since it was a cloudy day so not enough lighting for fast shutter speed!

Next snorkeling spot was in the protected deep water where they farm those giant clams! Hubby and I didn’t went into the water as it’s quite deep so once again my brother became the photographer! He got close to the giant clams in some area!

The colorful coral although not as colorful as the ones we saw in Bora Bora.

Where is Nemo…no Nemo here 🙁

A blue starfish!

This fish got a piece of our leftover papaya haha!

We got back to the main island around 3:30 pm. We had a blast although it was cloudy! Total cost of the full day cruise including delicious lunch was $125 NZD per person, totally worth it!

When we got back to our room, we looked at our daily activity sheet to see what’s special for today? One thing caught our eyes crab race LOL and a manager’s party. We went to the manager’s party at the main restaurant…they had free fried spring roll like snacks and free rum punches and juices. We signed up for crab race, each bet was like $2.5 and we picked #13 and forgot the other one; my lucky number 7 was already taken 🙁 The crab race where they use a marker and write the number on the hermit crab’s shell and put them in the center; once the crab reached the inner circle line you could stomp on the ground to scare it – hermit crab will hide back into its shell when it feel scared – and the one who reaches the outer circle line wins! Go go go #13, I was cheering for my crab!

Ended up my lucky number 7 won ahhh!!!!! The winner gets the pool of money 🙂 I always thought those cruiseship or hotel daily activities are cheesy but this one was quite fun, we unleashed our inner childish self haha!

We were there not just for the crab race but also its dinner dance performance. I made a reservation in advanced for good seating for the show but the location got changed and luckily we were there early so I talked to the lady in the restaurant. She honored my request and gave us a front row table. My brother and I ordered the roasted steak, although a little burned, it was good.

Hubby ordered the local raised lamb curry, pretty good too!

He also tried the dessert – snowball; it was only ice cream rolled in dried coconuts – okay but not amazing.

For the performance, they started with Polynesian dancers, three of them and they changed a few “outfits”.

And surprisingly they had fire dancers!!! Our first fire dancing performance that we saw was at the Polynesian Culture Center in Hawaii, it was a big production performance but photograph was prohibited! Ever since then I was looking forward to photograph fire dancing and when we were in Bora Bora last year, we were disappointed that their Polynesian dinner show didn’t have fire dancer! Although the young fire dancers dropped the poi, we still enjoyed photographing their performances!

I never photograph fire dancing before so I was constantly reviewing and adjusting my settings to find the best combination…you can’t be too slow speed or else it’ll blurred since the dance is moving very fast but you can’t be very fast shutter speed or else the fire will “freeze” instead of the full circle motion! The atmosphere is very dark so you would think to bump up your ISO for more lights but then the fire is so bright that it’ll become overexpose easily. To find the right balance, it’s like a trial and error experiment 🙂

It was only those 3 girl dancers and 4 fire dancers, small production but we enjoyed their performances!

Amazing to photograph the fire dancers!

We didn’t have to pay any admission or extra fee to watch the performance, only the cost of our dinner which came to be $166 NZD for three of us! I remembered the dinner we had at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso to watch the show, a la carta and the main entree cost like $50 USD per dish and very petite portion, we ended up paying around $200 USD for two of us and left half full!

After the wonderful show, we walked to the receptionist and asked for tomorrow’s weather forecast…if it’ll be sunny we will definitely want to go back to the islands and sandbars again but not..still cloudy the whole day 🙁 NO luck!!!

The next day, our last full day, knowing it’ll be cloudy the whole day, we slept till whenever and totally skipped breakfast. Instead, we walked to the Boat Shed and have a bigger and earlier lunch! The Boat Shed is such a cute little restaurant facing the sea!

We picked the table on its porch, its menu….the dishes are quite cheap..only $12-$23 NZD per dish, less than Koru Cafe where we had breakfast!

We each ordered a Classic Cola not Coke Cola haha!!! I like their wooden dinning mat!

I ordered fried rice…$9 NZD, it was quite good Indonesian style!

Brother ordered fish cakes $12 NZD very yummy!

Hubby ordered a fisherman’s bites $23 NZD, it was a big platter of fresh fried seafood. We like how it was lightly battered, very good, our favorite was the scallop! Once again, their scallop with the eggs tasted much better than the ones we have in Boston!!!

The interior of the restaurant:

In front of the restaurant is the beach and they have a hammock there too! Nap after lunch?

Hubby went down to the beach to hunt for more sea shells……and some cute hermit crabs!

This side of the sky getting some blue and clear sky!

While the other side still cloudy!

Hubby found this very smooth shell with the shell curling pattern:

Perfectly nice shell always occupied by hermit crabs!

How nature create perfect circles?

After our shell hunting, we went back to the resort to kayak!

And hunt for more shells! That was how we spent our life without internet and sun in the middle of the Pacific island haha!

This hermit crab almost completely came out!

Purple-ish shell!

My kayak – it’s pink 😀

And snail…

See how simple life could be and be happy?

As we were walking around the beach to hunt for pretty shells, we saw this hermit crab got out of its shell…completely!!! It’s time for it to look for another bigger shell!!!

It was so interesting to see how it looked!

The Vaka Cruise ship coming back to drop off passengers who stay at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort right on our hotel beach; look at how many people in the ship! We were glad we chose a smaller tour!

We walked to the other side of the beach pass the overwater bungalows…there have more rocks, shells, and snails!

Quite colorful in shades of pink and purple!

We got enough shells and walked back to our bungalow…we didn’t notice until today, the back has a pretty flowering tree!

Our sea shell collections 🙂

For dinner, we headed back out to the Boat Shed; they have a menu with a lot of Asian cuisine! Hubby wanted to try the Asian style snapper but it was not available that day so he ordered another fish dish and it wasn’t too great!

We ordered the Korean bulgogi – grilled marinated beef with glass noodles, it tasted good!

Also Indonesia fried noodle, this was my brother’s favorite dish!

And my favorite – the stir fried glass noodle with seafood. It was delicious! We were surprised on the quality of Asian cuisine at Boat Shed! We managed to clean up all four dishes and we were so full haha!

Total was $123.50 NZD for four dishes and 3 colas!!! I really like the food in Aitutaki – plenty of choices, great food at relatively inexpensive island prices!!!

After dinner, we took the short ferry ride back to the hotel and it started to rain a little. We walked back to our room and in the closet there’s a hotel umbrella, we took it with us to…..a crab hunting!!!! It’s tonight’s daily activity which needs 4 people minimum to sign up, three of us and we hoped another person would sign up. We walked to the main lobby and waited. A couple showed up and they signed up for the crab hunting too yay!!! The activity hut guy – Tai – came and gave us some flash lights…off we go crab hunting at night!

We took the ferry to the main island and followed Tai as he walked us into the “woods” near Samade On The Beach resort. He said Aitutaki has no snakes or poisonous spiders so don’t worry, we’ll be safe!  He showed us those holes on the ground and he said those are the crab’s home. He’ll need to be fast enough to spot a crab and chase it to capture it before it gets into those holes!

We kept looking around and then Tai said come over here, he ran so fast and caught a crab wow!!! Our first catch of the day haha!

We realized this is real lol so we paid extra attention and look for crab hiding in bushes. We saw one and said Tai here here, he is such a fast runner, oh forgot to mentioned he was barefoot too! He was so fast one hand grabbed one, hold the flashlight with his mouth, and then stick his other hand into the hole, he said another one inside. He pulled the crab out OMG!!!

Two at a time!!!

We continued hunting for more, this was getting excited! Hubby spotted one and he stepped on it to secure it and then grab it hahaha!

In the middle of the our hunt something is flopping and we got so scared, it turned out to be a bird that had trouble flying or did we blinded it with our flashlight? Tai came to the rescue, he took it and put it back on the tree!

More crabs more crabs!

And Jason become the 2nd pro crab hunter, he hunted at least 5 crabs by himself wow!

Tai asked for a volunteer to help him….my brother did and he was in charge of shaking the bag to keep the crab down when they attempting to crawl up while Tai went into the swamp. Since we were near the swamp, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes blahhh we wore long pants and didn’t put on any insect repellent!

One of hubby’s catch!

We ended up with at least 20 crabs, Tai said will need around two days for crabs to eat those leaves to clean out their system then they can be cooked. The crabs we catch today will be Friday’s seafood buffet…too bad we will be leaving tomorrow 🙁

We went back to the hotel after the fun crab hunting and we had a chance to take photos of them!

The next morning, as it always turned out whenever I leave, was perfect weather! Look at that blue sky, white clouds, sandbar, and the turquoise lagoon!


Ever since Aitutaki, I think I have a new mission to search for the world’s most beautiful sandbars!

Checking out at the front desk….we noticed it was all shells underneath the desk!

The hotel driver dropped us off at the Aitutaki airport…this is the airport….very small and only one cafe there:

Farewell Aitutaki, you’ll be missed very much by me 🙁

Once again, we assigned the 1st row – exit row and the same flight attendant…I think she flies back and forth everyday on the same plane!

The view leaving at 9:10 am above from the plane was spectacular!

That little boat was the ferry boat that transported us back and forth across the river to the resort – on its own private island. From above, we can clearly see the sandbars surrounded the island!

The dreamy shade of milky blue lagoon…..the third beach bungalow starting from the further end was our bungalow!

I didn’t realize how big that sandbar in front of our hotel was…the one where we were standing to take photos with the overwater bungalows as backdrop!!!


Just like a dream…..when will I able to come back?

The reef and the lagoon of Aitutaki!

One of my blog reader asked me how do I compare Aitutaki and Bora Bora? Hum…..Bora Bora is a luxury paradise, it does come with its hefty price tag; its overwater bungalows are those once in a life time dream. It has the view of its trademark mountain peak and the eyes blinding crystal clear bright turquoise water! Aitutaki on the other hand is a hidden affordable paradise! Its corals might not be as colorful as Bora Bora’s but compensated by its dreamy sandbars and milky water. Its food was excellent and big enough portion without leaving a hole in your wallet nor a half full stomach. If you can afford it for at least a once a life time trip go Bora Bora, if not and still want to have a taste of paradise go Aitutaki. Either way you won’t go wrong and best to visit both and compare them yourself 🙂

Next stop: Rarotonga to start our New Year before heading down to New Zealand! Subscribe to my blog for my latest trip report and stay tuned for more!

4 thoughts on “South Pacific Part 3: Aitutaki Sanbars and Crab Hunting

  1. Google “operculum” and you will have your answer on the shell in hubby’s hands. Also, we have been to Moorea/ Tahiti/ south seas seven times…….and observed the “Tupa” crabs every year, They’re awesome and proliferate the islands. They will eat anything…….. thus necessitating the two day cleansing period before consumption. Just fyi…….. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!!!!!! I enjoy reading of your travels.

      1. Mostly Tahiti/ Moorea/ Bora Bora, and Hawaii once, although I did spend a month in American Samoa many years ago. You are absolutely right BTW. Once you see the south seas……… the Caribbean, etc. is “ho hum.”

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