We are talking about Aitutaki, one of the Cook Islands, and the hermits of the title are in fact HERMIT CRABS!
Aitutaki is not visited by many yachts, despite being on the rhumb-line between the Society islands and Tonga, because the entry channel is only 1.5 meters deep, and anchoring on the outside of the reef is possible but exposed to the waves and to the risk of wrapping the anchor chain around the coral formations!
The lagoon surrounding the island is deemed to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and even if this may be a bit of an overstatement, its certainly a very nice and still unspoilt place: just few hotels embedded in picture-postcard sceneries, and the odd yacht.
Unfortunately this is not the right season to see sea-turtles, which have already left to head west (but we saw a couple of males which, by the way, under water are not turtle-slow at all!), but we saw for the first time the Giant Clams (Tridacna is the scientific name): they are all in all identical to the small clams which abound on the coral reefs we have seen until now, but they are HUGE!
I tried to tickle one, and it immediately snapped close: we have been told that they are actually dangerous, one can really get a hand or a foot trapped and they hold tight for several minutes, which can be fatal for a swimmer.
The beaches of the various palm-fronded islands have another feature: most shells are MOVING! Not just one or two, but literally hundreds of shells of all shapes that walk around: they are Hermit Crabs, sort of shrimps that inhabit empty shells (no idea if they actually kill the former owner).
They are funny-looking and of all possible shapes and colors, when they are disturbed they close themselves in, leaving only two round eyes protruding out.
On an island called “Honeymoon Island” the red-tailed birds (a sort of seagull with a thin, red tail) are hatching their eggs, and some of the new-borns are hidden in the bush: they look funny and very similar to baby “boobies” like the ones we saw in Galapagos (although the adults are quite different).
Time to leave again, Tonga is waiting for us, but this stopover in a little-visited place has certainly been worthwhile!