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Ariki Adventures Sea Scooters

Sea Scooters, Cook Islands

By Richard Moore

IN SCENES reminiscent of the documentaries of the legendary Jacques Cousteau on his powered underwater craft I took to the blue waters of Rarotonga behind a Sea Scooter humming the tune Calypso.

That was the late-great John Denver musical tribute to the French aquanaut who not only invented Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA), but also enthralled millions of people around with 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 New Zealand waters is fine, but itís only when you head underwater Ė or snorkel on top of it Ė 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.

While in the Cook Islands we decided to go on a sea-scootering safari with Ariki Adventures around a lovely part of Muri Lagoon.

Sea Scooters, Cook IslandsThe little units sea scooters 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.

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 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 begins near Fruits of Rarotonga and we receive a briefing on how to operate the machines and what we are likely to see.

Although the waters of the lagoon are warm, Lee suggests wetsuits are 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, not over the cost but purely because I enjoy snorkeling freely in tropical waters, however when he mentioned you can also brush up against fire coral I thought ah well, why not. Hereís 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.

Sea Scooters, Cook IslandsThen 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 with a throttle button in each of the handles that need to be held down simultaneously.

And they are darn simple to steer. Point them in the direction you want to go and thatís where you will head. Itís 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 Ö

Part of the tour takes you through shallow coral canyons in Muri Lagoon where you will see plenty of great little fish.

Some you will recognize, others you wonít, although there is a chart back at base where you can identify the little swimmers you come across.

About half way through your safari you do a catch up with the Captain Tamaís Lagoon Cruise ships. This brings the benefits of swimming amid schools of big fish like trevally that get attracted by feed from the boats.

Sea Scooters, Cook IslandsThe 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 thing I have ever seen. Wow.

The sea scooter safaris are a very pleasant, relaxing way to spend a morning, or afternoon, in the waters of Rarotonga.

Good fun for everyone aged 9 and up.


Copyright 2011 RICHARD MOORE