Swimming With Turtles in Rarotonga: Sea Scooter Safari With Ariki Adventures

turtle swimming underwater in rarotonga

Fulfilling Bucket List Dreams: Swimming With Turtles In Rarotonga With Ariki Adventures

When I was planning my adventure to Rarotonga I never thought I would end up swimming with turtles. The popular things to do there often include quad biking, buggying and taking a lagoon cruise. Though, rocking up and chatting with the friendly team at Ariki Adventures I was amazed that they offer a sea scooter safari tour swimming with turtles in Rarotonga!

Now, you may or may not know that I have a deep appreciation for turtles. When I first discovered my love of travel I was actually doing volunteer conservation work with turtles in Costa Rica. We would take notes of the turtles that came into shore, look after the hatchery and patrol the beaches. I gained a whole new appreciation for this animal and the daily struggles they go through to survive.

a morning on the beach in rarotonga

Checking In With Ariki Holidays

The morning of the sea scooter safari we headed to the main offices of Ariki Holidays down at the popular Muri Beach. Here we checked in, are given a poster with details about the hawksbill turtles and green turtles which we would be seeing and signed a waiver form. In our group is approximately other 13 people who are chilling out on the bean bags and enjoying a morning coffee kindly provided by the staff.

When all the necessary paperwork had been done we head down to the location either in our own private vehicles or in company car.

sea turtle fact sheet at ariki adventures

Arriving At The Beach

Down at the ocean the tide in high and a rainbow looms in the sky, a result of the early morning rain. The crew is setting up, unloading the equipment and doing final preparations.

Our main guide, Dan, briefs us on what to expect in the water, about the 30 meter deep trench we would be swimming in and how to react around the turtles. He passion for the ocean shows and he describes the different ocean life we should expect to see, as well as telling a couple stories from previous adventures.

rainbow over beach in rarotonga

ariki adventures crew in rarotonga

Gearing Up

Heading over to a buggy loaded with equipment we are geared up with a snorkel, mask and fins. The crew are particular in making sure everything fits perfectly and provide baby shampoo to prevent the mask from fogging up.

The sea scooters are unlike anything I have ever seen before. With a motor to propel you through the water and three different speed levels it will make swimming back inshore, against the current, so much easier. We are taught how to operate the sea scooters correctly. Including the emergency stop and the most importantly, not to turn it on and face it downwards, unless you are comfortable swimming at depth.

ariki adventures tractor in lagoon in rarotonga

sea scooters with ariki adventures rarotonga

Going For A Test Swim

We go for a practice swim at the beginning of the trench, keeping close to the drop off point. This allows us to test the gear and the crew to replace any gear which are causing issues or that does not fit right.

After testing we are provided with more baby shampoo for our mask to ensure maximum clarity and then it time to head out.

swimming in rarotonga

The First Turtles &  Puffer Fish

The sea scooter is surprisingly weightless in the water and it neither floats nor sinks. It is easy to swim with, even without having it turned on. Within less than a minute into swimming in the trench we spot our first turtle of the day, as well as a nearby puffer fish.

Soon enough, we are spotting hawksbill and green turtles left and right, both on the coral walls and swimming freely below us in the ocean. It is one thing seeing these magnificent creatures on land, but it is a whole other thing in the water.

Dan and the other guides are extremely enthusiastic about all the ocean life, pointing out when they find something and encouraging us to come and have a look. They even offer to take the Gopros for those not comfortable swimming down and film the turtles up close. That is going above and beyond what I would expect of any tour guide.

Sea Scooter Safari

turtle on reef wall rarotonga

Swimming With Eagle Rays

Half way through the adventure we reach the end of the trench within the lagoon  and turn around. Though, not before one of the crew spots something amazing below us. A group of eagle rays are soaring deep down, approximately 20 meters.

The only tell that they are present is their white under their wings flapping. Those who can hold their breath dive down. Though, unfortunately I have always had issues with the pressure on my ear when I dive past about 7 meters.

Heading back inland it is time to turn the sea scooters on full blast as we swim against the current. Noise in general always seems to echo when you are underwater, but the whirling motor did not seem to bother the other marine life nor the turtles. The sea scooters are extremely strong and effortlessly power us through the water, allowing us to dive down next to the turtles.

underwater sea turtle in rarotonga

underwater photo of flippers

Swimming With Sharks

One of the crew quickly tell everyone to crowd around, there are three shark pups about 12 meters down on the coral wall. The talented staff swim down with ease, without need of a sea scooter. I try, though unfortunately can’t swim deep enough, but I do manage to get a small view and to just make out the shapes.

turtle swimming off reef wall in rarotonga

The End Of An Amazing Morning

Back at the beach we hand back the gear and say our goodbyes. It is not doubt that this is the best way to experience the underwater life of Rarotonga. Being able to sea scooter down and swim with the turtles was amazing and truly a bucket list item. This also meant you were not spending much energy swimming down, allowing you longer with the turtles.

underwater photo of sea scooter in rarotonga

Why Ariki Adventures?

The turtles were only one part which made the experience with Ariki Adventures amazing; the other part was the excellent crew. Not only were they friendly and approachable, they also ensured our safety was the highest priority.

From the informative briefings, the amount of staff on assisting and the fact they were always making sure we were comfortable. There was even a team member on a fully equipped paddle board following us around the entire time. This made it easy if there was issues or we just wanted something to hold onto for a while.

I honestly cannot recommend the sea scooter safari with Ariki Adventures enough. Make sure to check out their website to see the full list of tours on offer!



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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Backpackers Wanderlust was a guest on the Sea Scooter Safari with Ariki Adventures while in The Cook Islands, however, as always, all opinions are my own.

  • about tasha amy sidebar

    Your typical New Zealander, now discovering the world one country at a time. With a high-end backpacking style I prefer to glampack across the globe by embracing the best of each destination. All of which I share right here on Backpackers Wanderlust. 




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  • 11 Responses

      1. Hey Kate! Unfortunately I am not aware of any turtle conservation projects in Rarotonga. I do not remember anyone mentioning whether the turtles nest here either. I did volunteer on a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica back in the day if you would like some info on that. But I am not sure about projects in the South Pacific.

    1. I’ve been a lot of places where the current is really strong. I’d wish for one of those sea scooters. My best sea turtle experience was in New Caledonia.

      #glt love!

    2. Omg this is incredible! What a special experience. I’ve never seen those sea scooters before, either. So cool.
      This is totally on my bucketlist now 🙂 We got to swim with turtles in Barbados but it was my first time snorkeling so I was struggling… I definitely want to experience it again!

    3. So great to see this! I was really hoping to do this trip when I was in Rarotonga but the weather went bad…fingers crossed next time 🙂

    4. This is a dream!!! I have been diving and never, never got the chance to see turtles! I loooove this! So jealous!

    5. Wow! This looks like such a fun adventure! We LOVE sea turtles and will keep this in mind when we make it to the Cook Islands!

    6. As a diver i’ve always thought these sea scooter things would be really useful for fighting currents 🙂 it looked like a of fun!

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