Roving weather presenter Natalia Cooper, is usually seen around various locations in regional Australia. But this week she got the chance to tick the Cook Islands off her bucket list.
From the shores of Muri lagoon to Aitutaki, the well-known weather presenter has been in her element. “It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it”, says Cooper, with a big smile.
“I am absolutely blown away. Above and beyond what I expected it to be. I’ve always wanted to come to the Cook Islands, so it’s always been at the top of the bucket list. I knew it was beautiful, but when you actually see it in real life, it is just so stunning. I love it…”
The crew jetted into Rarotonga on Saturday and took off to Aitutaki on Sunday, travelling in style on Air Rarotonga’s new private charter jet.
She says Aitutaki was “mind-blowing”.
“The colour of the water was so stunning, we had the most perfect weather, and saw the giant trevally. We went snorkelling, wakeboarding, and had lunch on one of the beautiful lagoon boats.
“It was the ultimate day, probably the best working day - and I say ‘working’ in inverted commas, that I’ve ever had.
“Everyone at work is just jealous, I’m probably the most hated person on the show right now.”
On Sunday (Monday, Australian time), the Channel Nine team shot live from Nautilus Resort, and welcomed tourists on to the show with colourful cocktails poolside, while Cooper relaxed back in a sun lounger to read the weather.
Yesterday she was in for a real treat with the team from Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes, and World Champion coconut tree climber, George “Johnny” Iona a.k.a. Captain White Chocolate, showing her how to climb a tree and husk a coconut. She had a go at Te Reo live on TV, counting Iona down: “tai-rua-toru…” to climb a coconut tree in under seven seconds. Cooper even gave climbing a crack herself, before falling back into Iona’s arms, laughing.
Cooper also tasted some local delicacies, ika mata (raw tuna and coconut), and freshly-picked pineapple with Captain Tama’s Antonia Poa, on a postcard perfect Muri lagoon morning.
Paddle boarding yoga “guru”, Charlotte Piho, also took Cooper through some tricky yoga moves, while balancing on a paddleboard. The presenter looked like she was having a lot of fun on her first ever SUP yoga lesson, trying to do a headstand, and with a little help from Piho’s father, Tuhe, nailed it on prime time tv.
Cooper says “a million eyeballs” watch the show throughout the course of a morning.
“So it will hopefully encourage more Aussies to come to the Cook Islands. And why wouldn’t you? it’s just paradise.”
That’s certainly the goal of Cook Islands Tourism Australia and New Zealand’s, Graeme West, who had been working on the show coming here since the middle of last year. Like all good things, it took time.
He says hundreds of thousands of Australians travel on holiday to Fiji each year, but only around 24,000 come to the Cook Islands. He wants to grow that market to at least 35,000 visitors in the near future.
West also wants to grow awareness of the Cook Islands, so people in Australia can see how stunning it is. He says different media sources from magazines, newspapers, and TV are starting to pick up on the destination.
West says the Channel Nine Facebook page is liked by over two million people, and, one short segment filmed two days ago in Rarotonga has already attracted over 100,000 “likes”.
The Today team are here for one final show this morning and filming some more picture-perfect activities before heading back home, after an amazing time in the Cook Islands.
More photos from the Channel Nine visit, in CINews soon.