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Underwater safari great fun

Monday 24 October 2016 | Written by Richard Moore | Published in Local

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Underwater safari great fun
IN SCENES reminiscent of the documentaries of the legendary Jacques Cousteau on his powered underwater craft we took to the clear waters of Rarotonga behind a sea scooter humming the tune Calypso. That was the late-great John Denver's musical tribute to the French aquanaut who not only invented Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA), but also enthralled millions of people around the world with his television shows highlighting the wonders of our oceans. As a youngster I watched those shows wanting to so be one of his team and, when old enough, qualified as a scuba diver. Diving in cooler New Zealand waters is fine, but it's only when you head underwater, or snorkel on top of it, in the tropics that you can really get to love the adventure. Warm seas, colourful fish and coral, and water so clear you could read a book underwater from 50 metres away. One gorgeous blue-skied Saturday we decided to go on a sea-scootering safari with Ariki Holidays around a lovely part of Muri Lagoon. The little sea scooter units are battery-powered and give you about 90 minutes of being dragged through the water at four km/h. If you use your fins as well you can almost double that, as well as giving your battery extra distance. They are quite heavy out of the water, but once immersed they have a neutral buoyancy. The hand-operated machines are like stunted torpedos, with a bullet-shaped front and a large fan safely tucked away in a cage. That said, people with long hair do have to tie it up and you cannot have any dangling things such as earrings or cameras. GoPros are okay, though, as there are mounts for the little-wiz cameras on the front of the sea scooters. Our tour leader Lee Horton said just in case anything happened he did have a sharp knife to remove entangled hair. Not a pretty thought for gals, not so much of a worry for shaven-headed chaps like me - although I would watch out for my moustache! The safari began near Fruits of Rarotonga and we received a briefing on how to operate the machines and what we were likely to see. Although the waters of the lagoon are warm, Lee suggested wetsuits were the way to go because after 90 minutes you can get a bit cold. Wetsuits cost an extra $10 to hire on top of the $65 price. I was humming and hah-ing over getting the neoprene or not – it wasn't the cost, but purely because I enjoy snorkeling freely in tropical waters. My mind was made up, however, when he mentioned you can also brush up against fire coral and so I thought ah well, why not. Here's the tip, avoid all red and yellow corals. The nickname fire coral should give you an indication of how it feels to come into contact with it. Then after cleaning our masks and donning our fins it was off on our adventure. A la Jacques Cousteau, it was onwards and downwards following some brightly hued denizens of the shallow lagoon. The sea scooters are really easy to operate. Most of them need two hands to keep the propulsion system going courtesy of a throttle button in each of the handles. They have to be held down simultaneously. And they are simple to steer. Point them in the direction you want to go and that's where you will head. It's cool when you want to change direction, or even dive to the lagoon floor to inspect some coral or giant clams, but point it upwards and you could end up breaching like a humpback whale. Well, sort of … Part of the tour takes you through coral canyons in Muri Lagoon where you will see plenty of great little fish. Some you will recognise, others you won't, although there is a chart back at base where you can identify any of the little swimmers you come across. About halfway through the safari you come across Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruise boats. This brings the benefits of swimming amid schools of big fish like trevally that get attracted by feed from the boats. The only downside is that you also have to wend your way through classrooms of snorkelers. Flipper here, flipper there, leg in the face here, elbow there. And throughout the 90-minute journey you need to keep your eyes peeled for the sea turtles that make regular visits to the calm lagoon waters. Speaking of sea beasties, you do come across a couple of moray eels lounging about in their rocky havens. I have to say one was the most massive eel I have ever seen ... A sea scooter safari is an exciting, yet relaxing, way to spend a morning, or afternoon, in the waters of Rarotonga. Good fun for everyone aged nine and up.

IN SCENES reminiscent of the documentaries of the legendary Jacques Cousteau on his powered underwater craft we took to the clear waters of Rarotonga behind a sea scooter humming the tune Calypso. That was the late-great John Denver’s musical tribute to the French aquanaut who not only invented Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA), but also enthralled millions of people around the world with his television shows highlighting the wonders of our oceans. As a youngster I watched those shows wanting to so be one of his team and, when old enough, qualified as a scuba diver. Diving in cooler New Zealand waters is fine, but it’s only when you head underwater, or snorkel on top of it, in the tropics that you can really get to love the adventure. Warm seas, colourful fish and coral, and water so clear you could read a book underwater from 50 metres away. One gorgeous blue-skied Saturday we decided to go on a sea-scootering safari with Ariki Holidays around a lovely part of Muri Lagoon. The little sea scooter units are battery-powered and give you about 90 minutes of being dragged through the water at four km/h. If you use your fins as well you can almost double that, as well as giving your battery extra distance. They are quite heavy out of the water, but once immersed they have a neutral buoyancy. The hand-operated machines are like stunted torpedos, with a bullet-shaped front and a large fan safely tucked away in a cage. That said, people with long hair do have to tie it up and you cannot have any dangling things such as earrings or cameras. GoPros are okay, though, as there are mounts for the little-wiz cameras on the front of the sea scooters. Our tour leader Lee Horton said just in case anything happened he did have a sharp knife to remove entangled hair. Not a pretty thought for gals, not so much of a worry for shaven-headed chaps like me - although I would watch out for my moustache! The safari began near Fruits of Rarotonga and we received a briefing on how to operate the machines and what we were likely to see. Although the waters of the lagoon are warm, Lee suggested wetsuits were the way to go because after 90 minutes you can get a bit cold. Wetsuits cost an extra $10 to hire on top of the $65 price. I was humming and hah-ing over getting the neoprene or not – it wasn’t the cost, but purely because I enjoy snorkeling freely in tropical waters. My mind was made up, however, when he mentioned you can also brush up against fire coral and so I thought ah well, why not. Here’s the tip, avoid all red and yellow corals. The nickname fire coral should give you an indication of how it feels to come into contact with it. Then after cleaning our masks and donning our fins it was off on our adventure. A la Jacques Cousteau, it was onwards and downwards following some brightly hued denizens of the shallow lagoon. The sea scooters are really easy to operate. Most of them need two hands to keep the propulsion system going courtesy of a throttle button in each of the handles. They have to be held down simultaneously. And they are simple to steer. Point them in the direction you want to go and that’s where you will head. It’s cool when you want to change direction, or even dive to the lagoon floor to inspect some coral or giant clams, but point it upwards and you could end up breaching like a humpback whale. Well, sort of … Part of the tour takes you through coral canyons in Muri Lagoon where you will see plenty of great little fish. Some you will recognise, others you won’t, although there is a chart back at base where you can identify any of the little swimmers you come across. About halfway through the safari you come across Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruise boats. This brings the benefits of swimming amid schools of big fish like trevally that get attracted by feed from the boats. The only downside is that you also have to wend your way through classrooms of snorkelers. Flipper here, flipper there, leg in the face here, elbow there. And throughout the 90-minute journey you need to keep your eyes peeled for the sea turtles that make regular visits to the calm lagoon waters. Speaking of sea beasties, you do come across a couple of moray eels lounging about in their rocky havens. I have to say one was the most massive eel I have ever seen ... A sea scooter safari is an exciting, yet relaxing, way to spend a morning, or afternoon, in the waters of Rarotonga. Good fun for everyone aged nine and up.

IN SCENES reminiscent of the documentaries of the legendary Jacques Cousteau on his powered underwater craft we took to the clear waters of Rarotonga behind a sea scooter humming the tune Calypso. That was the late-great John Denver’s musical tribute to the French aquanaut who not only invented Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA), but also enthralled millions of people around the world with his television shows highlighting the wonders of our oceans. As a youngster I watched those shows wanting to so be one of his team and, when old enough, qualified as a scuba diver. Diving in cooler New Zealand waters is fine, but it’s only when you head underwater, or snorkel on top of it, in the tropics that you can really get to love the adventure. Warm seas, colourful fish and coral, and water so clear you could read a book underwater from 50 metres away. One gorgeous blue-skied Saturday we decided to go on a sea-scootering safari with Ariki Holidays around a lovely part of Muri Lagoon. The little sea scooter units are battery-powered and give you about 90 minutes of being dragged through the water at four km/h. If you use your fins as well you can almost double that, as well as giving your battery extra distance. They are quite heavy out of the water, but once immersed they have a neutral buoyancy. The hand-operated machines are like stunted torpedos, with a bullet-shaped front and a large fan safely tucked away in a cage. That said, people with long hair do have to tie it up and you cannot have any dangling things such as earrings or cameras. GoPros are okay, though, as there are mounts for the little-wiz cameras on the front of the sea scooters. Our tour leader Lee Horton said just in case anything happened he did have a sharp knife to remove entangled hair. Not a pretty thought for gals, not so much of a worry for shaven-headed chaps like me - although I would watch out for my moustache! The safari began near Fruits of Rarotonga and we received a briefing on how to operate the machines and what we were likely to see. Although the waters of the lagoon are warm, Lee suggested wetsuits were the way to go because after 90 minutes you can get a bit cold. Wetsuits cost an extra $10 to hire on top of the $65 price. I was humming and hah-ing over getting the neoprene or not – it wasn’t the cost, but purely because I enjoy snorkeling freely in tropical waters. My mind was made up, however, when he mentioned you can also brush up against fire coral and so I thought ah well, why not. Here’s the tip, avoid all red and yellow corals. The nickname fire coral should give you an indication of how it feels to come into contact with it. Then after cleaning our masks and donning our fins it was off on our adventure. A la Jacques Cousteau, it was onwards and downwards following some brightly hued denizens of the shallow lagoon. The sea scooters are really easy to operate. Most of them need two hands to keep the propulsion system going courtesy of a throttle button in each of the handles. They have to be held down simultaneously. And they are simple to steer. Point them in the direction you want to go and that’s where you will head. It’s cool when you want to change direction, or even dive to the lagoon floor to inspect some coral or giant clams, but point it upwards and you could end up breaching like a humpback whale. Well, sort of … Part of the tour takes you through coral canyons in Muri Lagoon where you will see plenty of great little fish. Some you will recognise, others you won’t, although there is a chart back at base where you can identify any of the little swimmers you come across. About halfway through the safari you come across Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruise boats. This brings the benefits of swimming amid schools of big fish like trevally that get attracted by feed from the boats. The only downside is that you also have to wend your way through classrooms of snorkelers. Flipper here, flipper there, leg in the face here, elbow there. And throughout the 90-minute journey you need to keep your eyes peeled for the sea turtles that make regular visits to the calm lagoon waters. Speaking of sea beasties, you do come across a couple of moray eels lounging about in their rocky havens. I have to say one was the most massive eel I have ever seen ... A sea scooter safari is an exciting, yet relaxing, way to spend a morning, or afternoon, in the waters of Rarotonga. Good fun for everyone aged nine and up.


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