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The “take it with you guide” to paradise


The “take it with you guide” to paradise

The South Pacific paradise of the Cook Islands is now accessible on Apple's iPhone, thanks to a former BBC TV and radio journalist and broadcaster who has been having a love affair with the Islands for more than 25 years.

The app is a “take it with you” wholly off line version of John Roberts' website, which has grown to become the definitive internet guide to the Cook Islands. Features include:

A guide to every one of the 15 islands (including 2 that are deserted)

Expert advice on where to go and what to see

Essential information for visitors

Calendar of events

Islands' fact file

Photo album


Videos (links to on line mini documentary guides created by the author)

Google maps of each island (links to on line)

John, from Warrington, Cheshire in England started the web site seven years ago after fulfilling a 20 year old ambition to visit the Cooks which are among the most remote places in the world. He fell in love with the Islands after reading a small piece about them in a UK Sunday newspaper and subsequently discovered a long out of print book which fired his imagination further. That led on to years of research and multiple visits.

“You know you’ve arived somewhere very special when you discover that the usual greeting in the Islands translates as “may you live long”, and the first person you see in the airport is an elderly straw hatted islander strumming a banjo and singing Polynesian songs of welcome”.

“I was torn between wanting to tell everyone about this amazing place I'd discovered, and keeping it to myself, “ he explained. “But finally the jounalist in me got the upper hand. The writing was a pleasure, but I had to learn a whole lot of new skills to build the site and then the iPhone app.”

The Islands are just tiny dots on the map, “hidden” roughly half way between Hawaii and New Zealand and spread out across more than 2 million square kilometres of the Pacific – that’s an area the size of India. John is slowly working his way round all of them...which is no easy task as many are accessible only by the occasional boat or inter island vessel. “Many places lay claim to being an unspoiled paradise”, says John, “but after two trips round the world and a lot of other travel in between, I can honestly say this is the only destination that truly lives up to that claim. And it's the people who make it that way.”.

His website now has more than 200 pages of information and hundreds of photographs. And thanks to input from other visitors and Islanders themselves, it has grown into the most detailed guide on the net. Last year, the site had over a quarter of a million unique visits, which is more than double the number of real tourists to the Islands. And between them, they viewed over a million pages. John has dedicated the site to the people of the Islands as a thank you for their warmth and hospitality.

He's also spent five years meticulously researching into the story of Englishman, William Marsters whose descendants are the sole population of one of the Cook Islands, Palmerston and is developing that into a book and is currently looking for a publisher. That research also ended up with him being featured in nearly every national newspaper in the UK and others around the world.

John has helped to promote the islands indirectly too. BBC network radio's popular weekly travel programme 'Excess Baggage' (BBC Radio 4) has interviewed him about the Islands, and he's been on Radio New Zealand National talking at length about the Marsters story. Some of his photos have also ended up in publications as diverse as a book on the history of a rugby league club, an arts publication in Italy and the in house magazine of a German airport!

The app will sell for NZ$2.59 (AUS$1.99) , but John is planning to donate any profits to a charity or charities in the Cook Islands. “It's another way in which I want to give something back to the Islands who have given me so much,” he explained.

The iPhone guide is available in Apple's iTunes App Store. The full title of the app is “The Cook Islands, South Pacific – the offline guide to paradise”.

A preview of the app is available at

and in Apple's App store at


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