Graham Kuss and three friends visiting from Beenleigh in Queensland, Australia, had just completed the cross-island trek and had been enjoying cooling off while their partners went shopping.
After only about 30 minutes in the water he said that he started to experience cramp in his leg, following his long walk, and headed back to shore.
It wasn’t until they drove on towards Muri afterwards that Kuss noticed his phone and money had been taken from his bag, which he had left unattended on the beach.
Thieves had taken his mobile phone and around $100 in cash, as well as coins, but had left the actual wallet containing a couple of credit cards and his driver’s licence behind in the bag.
“I was left shocked and disappointed. I wanted to be on the next plane out of here!” Kuss said.
It’s not just the cash and the phone taken, but the many memories of my trip to Rarotonga he said. “I’d rather they’d taken $500 cash and left my phone. My biggest loss is the photos.”
He admitted that after the morning’s trek he had let his guard down while snorkelling in the lagoon. But he said the theft was still disappointing, as he normally had no problems back home in Australia.
In the past he has left personal belongings on the beach while swimming on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, in sometimes remote locations, without a problem. He said he was about as cautious about his surroundings here as he would be anywhere else.
His two friends accompanying him snorkelling weren’t affected as they had left their belongings locked in their rental car.
Liana Scott of Ocean Spray Villas in Tupapa was alerted to the theft and immediately contacted the police. Three police officers arrived shortly after to take statements.
An annoyed Kuss says he lost around a day of his holiday following up with police and arranging an insurance claim from Australia. He spent further time cancelling banking passwords he had left stored on his phone and was no longer able to do internet banking and keep track of holiday expenses.
Police media spokesperson Trevor Pitt says tourists here on holiday are too frequently letting their guard down as they slow down to “island time” and are sometimes not taking the precautions they would at home.
He says tourists are particularly vulnerable to theft when they leave their valuables unattended while they go snorkelling, kayaking and swimming, sometimes for hours at a time.
Police are continuing to monitor known beachside hotspots around the island as the island enters the busy tourist season, and following a spike in petty thefts.
They say incidents have been reported in multiple beachside areas frequented by visitors around the island and warn tourists to be extra-vigilant.