Down at Avatiu harbour at this time of the year, there are usually tourists in numbers embarking and disembarking the big white boats. Locals drive on by – and some may wonder what is going on.
This year, you can discover for yourself. With the borders closed by the Covid pandemic, it’s locals who are taking advantage of discounted fishing trips with the Marlin Queen.
Usually $200 per head, Marlin Queen is encouraging Cook Islands people to take advantage of their discount, at $50 a head.
Grabbing the opportunity to feel the ultimate game fishing experience, our “bubble” – a group of four women and two men – decided to book a trip to the deep blue sea.
Welcomed onboard by local skipper Captain Katoa Piniata and his deckhand Dave Harvey, there’s a feeling of excitement in the air. It is the first time for most of us to go out beyond the reef.
We leave at 1pm, and cruise out of the harbour into the blue sea.
I was looking back at just how beautiful Rarotonga is, with its green and peaceful mountains – a view I never thought I would see from afar.
It is a long ride out, and Dave put the bait and lures on the fishing hooks, and throws out the lines.
We wait in anticipation for the line to move. Is that a hooked fish? Captain Katoa takes us out further, and we began to see high waves and the dark blue ocean surrounding us.
Dave gets one of the fishing lines back on board and holds up a colourful lure – he says this attracts the marlin. It certainly gets the men excited- anticipating a catch.
Going out fishing got me recalling a fishing trip I went on with my aunt when I was around 10 years old – and we unfortunately did not catch anything.
She said I had jinxed it because I kept asking, “have you caught anything, yet?”
I guess the wait in anticipation jinxed it.
One of our friends made a joke and said maybe the fish received information we were coming, or Nemo the fish informed his mates. Well! It was a joke no more.
As the six or seven lines drag far behind us, the waiting game to see whether we catch anything is becoming tiring for me, I must admit. But out little bubble stays positive.
Fishing is a boring sport for some, but for us, it was all about taking advantage of the discount and just doing something different.
So instead of our normal weekend kava sessions and exchange of TV series and movies – it is a day out at sea.
Dave sees we are waiting for something to happen, and he encourages us telling us about the FADs and how important they are and how easy it is to catch fish around that area.
Captain Katoa takes us around to one of the FADs (a fish aggregating device), and cruises slowly around the FAD twice, but this is not turning out to be our day.
Three hours later we are heading towards Avana to see whether we will get any luck down there.
But on the way, just out from Trader Jack’s, Captain Katoa allows us to go for a swim.
As scary as it seems, it’s a good break to jump out of the boat, and feel the deep blue ocean around us.
It is Dave’s first time taking a swim out there; he’s always told people to take a swim but, he says, it’s time he got out as well.
Swimming outside the reef is a definite first for me – though the thought of Jaws comes creeping in and we decide to get back on the boat.
The swim is refreshing, but it leaves me feeling sleepy. As the rest continuing pursing the great marlin of their dreams, I take a nap.
It’s just an hour later that I wake to realise we are heading back to the harbour, after five balmy hours on the ocean.
Some are lucky to catch fish on these trips; we just feel lucky to have taken this trip together as a “bubble”.
Game fishing is a big part of Cook Islands tourism, and during this time the whole tourism business needs local people’s support – whether you are an expat worker or a Cook Islander. ‘We are all in this together”.