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Gina's Garden Lodges

veranda at Gina's Garden Lodges

Aitutaki, The Cook Islands
Living out your Robinson Crusoe fantasies doesn't have to mean giving up creature comforts - or your life savings.

first impressions
Escape the wave of beach-barmy tourists at this idyllic, inland hideaway. Set in four acres of lush, tranquil gardens, this stunning South Sea bubble is positively bursting with exotic flora and fauna. It's secluded location - near beautiful Tautu Village - gives Gina's Garden Lodges that unspoilt 'desert-island' feel: you're more likely to stumble across a passing coconut crab than an annoying day-tripper here.

bedrooms
Expect a taste of the Cook Islands with all the creature comforts and mod-cons of home. Each of the four lodges are spacious, and come outfitted in authentic, Polynesian decor, with locally made tie-dyed curtains and bedspreads throughout. Fully-equipped kitchens - including refrigerator, stove, oven, plates and cutlery - come as standard. There's also a large wooden dining table, two electric fans, and a colour TV.

bedroom at Gina's Garden Lodges

En-suite bathrooms are basic but stocked with an assortment of fresh towels and soaps.

Each lodge sleeps up to five, with a double bed, and a separate single in the main living area. Two additional single beds on the mezzanine floor make it the perfect place to stow away the kids - or snoring partner. While away an afternoon on the veranda overlooking the private gardens and complimentary swimming pool.

food and drink
Why stay in and cook, when someone else can do it for you? Head to one of Aitutaki's famous restaurants to sample some mouthwatering, locally-caught seafood. Try fresh snapper at nearby Tupuna Restaurant, or some gourmet cuisine at the Pacific Resort. More traditional fare is available on Island Nights - musical showcases of traditional Maori song and dance - at Coconut Crusher's or Samades Bar.

service with a smile?
Cook Islanders are famous for their hospitality - and the owners of this family-run business are no exception. Here you'll receive five-star treatment from Manarangi 'Queenie' Tutai - one of the island's three ariki, or High Chiefs - and her entertaining Kiwi partner, Des. Sit back and relax while they organise everything from motorbike hire to lagoon cruises on your behalf.

pool at Gina's Garden Lodges

local attractions
With some of the best beaches in the South Pacific, it's no surprise Aitutaki is famous for its water sports. There's snorkelling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking - all just minutes away from your front door.

Hiking is also popular: spend 20 minutes hiking to the dizzy heights of Maungapu's (corr) summit - Aitutaki's highest 'mountain' at 124 metres.

Meanwhile, the main village of Arutanga, with its shops, handicraft markets, Post Office and bars, is about a five-minute drive away.

Whatever you do, be sure to arrange a trip to Akaiami Island, one of a dozen 'motus' - uninhabited islands - in Aitutaki Lagoon. Gina's offer tours to the island aboard their own boat, the "Ida Maud". The more adventurous might even consider spending a few days at their second property, Gina's Beach Lodge, Akaiami. Once the last of the tour boats has left for the day, you'll have the island entirely to yourself.

will it break the bank?
Absolutely not - accommodation on a budget doesn't come any better than this. Rates start from just NZ$75 per night. There's also a group rate of just NZ$47.50 per night, based on a party of eight. Buy six nights, get the seventh free.

details
Gina's Garden Lodges
PO Box 10
Aitutaki
Cook Islands
Web: www.ginasaitutaki.com

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