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‘It’s a great relief’ – Travellers welcome Cook Islands border reopening

Saturday 22 January 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Features


‘It’s a great relief’ – Travellers welcome Cook Islands border reopening
Robynne Andrews and her husband David say they are enjoying their trip to Rarotonga which has been two years in the making. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/22012147

Despite the unfavourable weather, Kiwi visitors who arrived here following the border reopening over a week ago are breathing a sigh of relief as they get to travel again after multiple lockdowns in New Zealand.

The border between New Zealand and the Cook Islands has been open for more than a week, with a number of Kiwi visitors welcoming the news and expressing their relief.

The border has been closed between the Cook Islands and New Zealand since August 2021 after quarantine free travel between the two countries started in May.

Robynne Andrews, who works at all-girls school in Auckland, and is currently staying at Muri Beach Hideaway with her husband David, says she hopes this will be “the last” of the border closure crisis.

Robynne says her trip to the Cook Islands has been two years in the making, and that before they left New Zealand, she and her husband weren’t sure they would even be able to get on the plane.

It was “a great relief” to be able to finally travel and come here to the Cook Islands.

“It has been a great relief to get here because it’s been two years in the planning and it was originally to celebrate my husband's birthday which was two years ago,” says Robynne.

“We’ve had to rebook our stay in the Cook Islands I think five times.

“Before we did get here, we kept wondering, ‘are we going to get on that plane or not’?”

During her flight over, Robynne says she saw the majority of passengers were extremely happy to be traveling to the Cook Islands, and that there were “big cheers and claps” when the plane took off from Auckland, and eventually landed in Rarotonga.

At that moment, knowing that she would finally come here, “was all quite exciting”, she adds.

The Andrews family have a number of activities planned while they are here, including going snorkeling and eating local food.

Robynne also has plans to shop and support local products. 

“We are going snorkelling and eating lots of lovely food. We are also supporting locals, and I’ve already brought lots of things for my grandchildren and lots of little knick-knacks.

“We are also going with the flow, and talking to people who we crash into to see what they’ve done. We thought we might do the turtles (tour) as that sounds fun.

“The boys want to go game fishing but we know that will be off this week because of all the swells and rough weather, but, that’s okay.

“It’s just nice for us to be here together, to be here in Rarotonga.”

Tee Jay Campbell, who is a teacher from Palmerston North and also staying at accommodation in Muri, says his visit has also been two years in the making.

If he wasn’t able to come to the Cook Islands now, Campbell says he and his fiancé might not have made it at all.

He says that to get here, has been, “an absolute rigmarole”.

“My partner and fiancé, and I are getting married in September, so if we weren’t (going) to get through now and being a teacher, I think it probably would have been a no-go for us,” explains Campbell.

“We probably wouldn’t have been able to come, and that would’ve been really sad.

“Last minute I found out that we had to do that test you need to travel, and everyone was thinking it was just a free test. But I guess it’s all advertised over here.

“You don’t realise how much you have to pay at the other side, and I think that’s a bit off guard.”

Campbell says it wasn’t until he and his partner touched down in Rarotonga that they both began to feel like they were on “holiday”. A number of people he knew had recommended the Cook Islands as a go-to travel destination.

“Once you touch down you instantly feel like you’re in holiday mode, and everyone’s really nice and everyone’s friendly. Being able to see that and experience the culture is really great.

“Everyone always talks about the Cook Islands and Rarotonga in New Zealand, saying it’s one of those places you have to go to.

“There is no way to describe the feeling of being in Rarotonga as a tourist, until you actually get to go and be there.

“The borders finally opening is honestly an awesome feeling, and I’m really thankful.

“Being able to go off stories about how amazing and relaxing Rarotonga really is also cool.”

While here, Campbell says he plans on experiencing different dialects and testing his knowledge of the Cook Islands and Maori culture.

He says its things like that here in the Cook Islands which “make you feel really welcome”.

Campbell would also love to eat street food and try different cuisines while enjoying a swim in the Muri lagoon.

“I wanted to do some game fishing but I don’t want to throw up because of this weather so maybe next time. I’d be really keen to go down to the lagoon.

“I also hope the markets are open as I love eating different street food and trying different cuisines. I have to give credit to Vili’s as that’s the first meal I had in Raro eating out.

“Those burgers you can’t beat them anywhere. New Zealand’s fast-food has nothing on Vili’s.”

Another couple visiting from New Zealand is also excited about being able to travel again and holiday in the Cook Islands.

Alex Coburn, who is also a teacher from New Zealand, says being able to travel has kept her going.

Her friend Chrystie Woods, who joined her on this trip, has always wanted to come here.

“Being from the UK I haven’t been able to go back home and see my family, so this has been keeping me going. To have the chance to come here and go on holiday has been absolutely amazing,” says Coburn.

Woods says: “I’ve always really wanted to come here, so I’m just so excited for that, and really just so happy Alex could be here because it has been really tough for her not seeing her family.”

“While we are here, we are going to be doing heaps of snorkelling and have done Charlotte Piho’s turtle tours.

“We are so glad the border has re-opened and we hope that doesn’t change.”