I tend to judge a country by the way it treats its animals, and Rarotonga doesn’t disappoint. Although there isn’t a large amount of working stock – horses, donkeys and the like – there are plenty of chickens, goats and dogs.
From our hotel window I watch as every morning several dogs trot down the beach purposefully. And in the evening they trot back the other way. This is their world and they’re free here… not mollycoddled, not pampered and not fenced in. They look happy and I can’t help thinking that our own two labs would call this place Paradise.
Much to the amusement of visitors, several dog’s routine is to swim across to the neighbouring island, where every day tourists gather for a BBQ lunch. It’s a swim of several hundred metres which they take in their stride, although they do prefer hitching rides on paddleboards and kayaks. It’s hard to say no to a smiling dog that jumps up onto your board in the shallows, perches himself on the bow and barks “let’s go”. Plenty of people seem to enjoy the company of these canine beach-bums, and they receive lots of attention from their transient and resident human friends.
Dogs have been on the island of Rarotonga for thousands of years apparently, and as far as the locals are concerned this is their ancestral home too. The Cook Islands SPCA work hard to make sure the dogs are healthy, and they have a de-sexing and registration programme in place in an attempt to keep the numbers under control.
Chickens too are everywhere. They roam at leisure, squabbling chicks in tow, living amongst the locals and throngs of tourists. Like the dogs they seem to be aware of how the single main road around the island works, and have the street-smarts to cross when it’s safe. They do understand the danger though and it’s amusing to watch the chicks lower their heads and power across, tiny legs at full speed… no squabbling until mum reaches vegetation again and resumes her search for bugs.
Rarotonga is a beautiful island… quiet and harmonious. The rest of the world and its troubles feel a long way away. Everyone, animals included, go about their daily business in peace.
There are many ways to say “beautiful” in Rarotonga; ruperupe – ‘aka‘ie‘ie – taurekareka – puretu – mānea – venu – ‘akamānea. I’m not surprised.