Adventure Cook Islands welcomes divers back once again.
It has been a ratherchallenging and interesting 20 months for Rarotonga based PADI Dive Resort Adventure Cook Islands. Finally, after many months of closed borders, the Cook Islands are once again opening up to visitors.
Just as the travel world came to a halt in April 2020, our dive centre had to relocate its premises. After 11 years of successful operation we had to say goodbye to our original location in Kavera on the west coast of Rarotonga. Despite the fact that our new location was only 800 metres down the road, relocating the entire business including the buildings turned out to be a major task.
There are not many options when it comes to moving buildings on a small tropical island. With limited machinery options, equipment has to be made up on the spot and improvising is often required. Even though we hired professionals to help with the building relocation works, we were very much involved in the jacking up and moving of our buildings. After a few nerve-racking but rewarding weeks, the main buildings were relocated and we were left to ourselves, with lots of building repair and touch up work. With the Cook Islands borders shut, our dive centre team had lots of time at hands to complete all the work and we were more than pleased with the end result.
Even though we did not relocate our business by choice, moving the business to our new location by Aroa Beach on the south – west corner of the island turned out to be a great decision. Not only do we now have a lot more space and a fantastic, big workshop, we are also situated right in front of the beautiful Aroa ra'ui (marine protected area), one of the best places for snorkelling inside Rarotonga’s lagoon. In addition, we are now next door to the Rarotongan Beach Resort, one of the major hotels on the island.
The Aroa lagoon, with its interesting marine life, is not only perfect for snorkelling, but also very good for scuba diver training. We literally only have to walk across the road for our confined water training and shallow Discover Scuba Dives.
Since we relocated to Aroa Beach, we have also extended our range in diving services. We now cater for rebreather divers and stock soda lime, oxygen and helium for the experienced mixed gas CCR diver. Apart from rebreather trips and training, we also offer discovery dives for those who do not want to commit to a full rebreather course but still want to find out what diving is like with a rebreather.
During the border closure we also became a supporting partner of the Cook Islands environmental non-governmental organization Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau. The organization’s aim is to protect the Cook Islands culture, environment and natural resources. Its name translates to “knowledge of the sky, land, and sea”.
Their program Ātui'anga ki te Tango (AKTT) teaches students life skills and traditional practices. We supported the organization by training AKTT senior students to PADI Open Water Diver level and helped students develop fundamental skills to become our next generation of ocean ambassadors. In a country with a territory consisting mainly of water, getting the youth interested in ocean education is the way forward to a more sustainable future.
Rarotonga’s coral reefs are beautiful and healthier than they have been in a long time. Nevertheless, since the beginning of 2020 we have been observing elevated numbers of Crown-of-thorns starfish on parts of the reef. Crown-of-thorns starfish have evolved over millions of years and are beautiful, natural reef predators. They feed preferably on corals and are important for the natural growth and health of the coral reef. However, in great numbers, they can become highly destructive.
As soon as we finished relocating our business buildings and had our compressor up and running again, our dive centre started to work alongside Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau, the Ministry of Marine Resources and many local volunteers to control the islands Crown-of-thorns starfish population. Over the period of 18 months, thousands of starfish have been removed to keep the population within levels that are sustainable for the reef. Efforts are on going, but well worth it.
When the Cook Islands borders finally opened up again in May 2021, we were overwhelmed by the amount of visitors wanting to go diving. Unfortunately, this only lasted 3 months. With New Zealand going into lockdown in August 2021, the Cook Islands government once again suspended all travel from New Zealand to Rarotonga.
Fortunately, we were lucky that some of our visiting divers extended their stay, kept diving and continued their dive education with us. However, five months is a long time and we are now looking forward to our borders re-opening once again to New Zealand from the 13th of January 2022.
Article and Photos: Patrick Jaletzky