Stranded in paradise: Cork man and his new wife stuck on tropical island for coronavirus pandemic

Stranded in paradise: Cork man and his new wife stuck on tropical island for coronavirus pandemic
Stephen and Sabina Palmer on Rarotonga island. 

THERE are worse places to be stuck — a Corkman and his new wife have been stranded on the tropical Cook Islands for the last month with no sign of their idyllic lockdown ending.

Corkman Stephen Palmer and his wife Sabina are self-isolating on the island of Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, where they think they will be until June.

Stephen and Sabina, who are professional travel bloggers, were due to fly to New Zealand on March 26.

However, by the time they were due to depart, New Zealand had closed its borders and the couple have been on the South Pacific island ever since.

With a visa extension until the end of May, they are set to sit back and watch the world from a tranquil distance as the pandemic continues to play out across the globe.

Rarotonga is free from coronavirus and the couple is now safe on the island, which has a population of less than 15,000.

A sunset picture taken on Rarotonga Island by Stephen Palmer where he is staying with his new wife Sabina during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
A sunset picture taken on Rarotonga Island by Stephen Palmer where he is staying with his new wife Sabina during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

However, Stephen and Sabina had initially endured an anxious period trying to get home to Ireland or back to Sabina’s native Poland.

“Originally there were around 100 stranded tourists on the island and on April 18, there was a German rescue flight which was picking up any Europeans who wanted to leave, flying them via Auckland, Sydney, Qatar, and Frankfurt.,” said Stephen.

“We were actually going to take it and go to my wife’s family in Poland where we could self-isolate easier.

“But at that time Poland was in lockdown so there were no flights.

“Also, as we got married in Portugal, the legal side of things have not been done yet and as they were only letting Polish citizens in we were worried I would get stuck at the German/Poland border, not to mention possibly catch the virus on the way.”

After many days of debate, the newlyweds decided to stay put and around the same time the island was declared Covid-19 free.

Stephen and Sabina Palmer on Rarotonga island. 
Stephen and Sabina Palmer on Rarotonga island. 

“This was great news as there are a lot of elderly locals with underlying conditions and there are only three ventilators on the island,” said Stephen.

“Those at high risk have small orange flags outside their houses, which they can change to white if they need medical attention.”

Glanmire native Stephen said only a smattering of tourists remain on the island.

“There are about 20 tourists left here and I’ve created a WhatsApp group where we have organised a few meet-ups.

“We did a cross-island hike at the weekend and later met up for a barbecue which was great to meet everyone and share stories.”

Stephen said there is certainly a plus side to being left alone on a sunny island, but he said they are both worried about family and friends back home.

“There is certainly a lot more pros to being here than cons.

“The best thing is having this island at our doorsteps.

“Cheap accommodation, normally the place we stay in is $400 [€224] per night and now is $400 per week.

“Plenty of things to do, snorkelling, fishing, golf, hikes, good restaurants, and of course freedom to move around.

A picture taken on Rarotonga Island by Stephen Palmer.
A picture taken on Rarotonga Island by Stephen Palmer.

“The main cons are the not knowing what’s going to happen, what if a family member gets ill, and if air travel gets suspended.”

Stephen said the pair were trying to take the sensible approach and trying to live in the moment and make the most of their time on the island without worrying about things they cannot control.

“With so much changing we are just taking it day by day and trying to get the most of this unique situation.

“It’s easy to get swept up in what we can’t control and it certainly was a stressful few weeks for us.

“The indecision was the worst but now I feel we are finally a bit more at ease with the situation.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content