Several companies offer boat trips to uninhabited motu around the Aitutaki Lagoon, such as Akaiami or Tapuaetai (One Foot Island). The swimming in the clear deep-green water at these islands is great but the snorkeling is mediocre. Thus the boats take passengers to much better snorkeling spots on the reef. Unfortunately the very popularity of these trips has become their undoing as "desert islands" such as Tapuaetai can get rather overcrowded when all of the tourist boats arrive!
Some trips also go to Maina, or "Bird Island," at the southwest corner of the lagoon. Only a few tropic birds still nest on a sandbar called "Honeymoon Island" next to Maina as most have been scared off by marauding tourists and their guides. There's good snorkeling at Honeymoon Island as the fish are fed here. But when the wind whips up the sea it gets hard to snorkel and you miss out on half the fun.
Different tour operators concentrate on varying aspects and the smaller independent operators tend to serve you a bigger and better lunch for a lower price. If snorkeling is your main interest you should find out if they plan to spend all afternoon eating and drinking at Tapuaetai (also great fun). Bishop's Cruises is the most reliable company and it tries to run on a schedule. This may be what you want if you have only one chance to get it right, but it's inevitably touristy and the amateur operators you learn about by word of mouth or from notices taped on the walls of the backpackers hostels are more personal (and less dependable). It's also possible to arrange to be dropped off for the day on Akaiami or Maina.
Bishop's Lagoon Cruises and several other operators offer lagoon trips daily except Sunday. One trip goes to Maina, another to Akaiami, and both continue to Moturakau and Tapuaetai. The Maina trip is the better and to get it you must specifically request a visit to Maina when booking, otherwise they'll only take you to Akaiami and Tapuaetai. Either way, the price includes lunch. Paradise Islands Cruises operates the Aitutaki day tour cruises for Air Rarotonga using a large catamaran, and both it and Bishop's are rather commercialized and jaded. Often the cooks can be rather miserly rationing out the fried fish in order to have an ample supply left over for themselves and the boat crews. You'll probably be whisked back to the main island earlier than you would have liked so the day-trippers from Rarotonga can catch their flight.
Teariki George of Teking Water Taxi Service at Tautu shuttles snorkelers over to Maina Island.
If you're on a low budget you can get comparable snorkeling off the west end of the airstrip for free. Whatever you decide, take sunscreen and insect repellent.
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