Some info about DX holidays in the Cook Islands
(Special thanks to W6HB & E51DLD Andy Duncan)
How to get there
From or via North America the best way is the direct flight on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles (LAX) to Rarotonga (RAR) -- the flight is once a week departing late Saturday night from LA, and returning late Friday night from Rarotonga.
For other days or from Europe via Asia or the USA the routing is through Auckland (AKL), New Zealand with daily flights from Auckland to Rarotonga. Carriers are Air New Zealand, Virgin and Jeststar.
Travel to other SOUTH COOK islands (Mangaiia, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro or Aitutaki) can be arranged through Air Rarotonga.
Tavel to the NORTH COOKS is MUCH more difficult. Air Rarotonga flies to Manihiki Atoll once every two weeks. Airfare is about NZ$3400 R/T from Rarotonga with 11kg baggage allownce. Sometimes DXers are able to negotiate additional baggage for a cost, -- sometimes they buy a second seat. For significant additional fares the flights can be diverted to Tongareva or Pukapuka Atoll.
Sea passage can sometimes be obtained through Taio shipping though considerable flexibility is required as departure and return dates are very fluid. Fare is about NZ$1200 R/T with no limits on baggage. These are very small (30m long) freighters with limited shared cabin space or deck passage. About 5 days sail in either direction. Avoid cyclone season October - March.
How to get the license
The licence is easy to get! You require a copy of your licence with and English translation if not already on you licence. It costs NZ$20 and is good for one year. Call sign is in the form E51XXX (residents have E51XX). Licence can usually be received on the same day at the Bluesky Telecom office in Avarua. It can also be obtained in advance by email. Contact person is Katoa Banaba firstname.lastname@example.org
How to transport radio equipment
I usually pack mine in my suitcase -- ideally in the box -- and well protected by clothes etc. You should be ready to show it to security on departure (very rarely) or to Customs on arrival in the Cook Islands. Customs are very rarely a problem, but getting a licence in advance and having it with you, and assuring customs that ALL the equipment will leave with you usually does the trick -- IF they ask.
Hotel HAM friendly
Most hotels are pretty relaxed about your putting up antennas (except the very expensive resorts) but email and check BEFORE you book. The Kiikii Motel on the north side of the island is very Ham Friendly and, given notice will put you in "beachfront" rooms. An excellent DX location with clear shots over millions of sq km of Salt water. NOTE: this is a basic 2 star hotel. Other options include renting holiday homes -- check www.rentraro.com or www.ck and look for homes to rent. Also -- many places on Air B&B. Again, email the owners BEFORE renting but usually NO problem. :-)
Something about my activity on air
I am resident on Rarotonga and one of three active hams on Rarotonga. All the local hams are "rag chewers" and not DXers. When you live in a DX location, pile-ups become boring and the constant interruption to QSOs can be frustrating. For visitors, it is usually an exciting time as they are working more stations than they ever imagined. During good band conditions though, the pile-up can overwhelm even very experienced DX operators and DXpeditioners.
There are only 8 resident hams in the Cook Islands:
one on Tongareva (Penrhyn Atoll - OC-082) and one on Manhiki Atoll (OC-014) - both in the North Cooks -- neither are regularly active.
There is one inactive ham on Aitutaki (OC-083). The remaining 5 are on Rarotonga (OC-013) and only three are regularly active. (E51JD - ssb; E51AND ssb & cw; and E51BQ psk and olivia). The one local YL ham has been driven off the air by unruly behaviour and unbearable pile ups. YL hams should be aware that, during good openings, pile-ups can be outrageous and not fun!!
Local hams local hams will occasionally welcome visitors to the shack (though if we get too many requests we may have to refuse.) (E51AND gets off island visitors to his shack almost every month)