When you visit The Dive Centre (aka The Big Fish) at Aroa Beach in Rarotonga you get the feeling everything is well-organised and in good shape. That is also the way the co-owner Sabine Janneck approaches the Cook Islands lagoon and reef environment that she and her partner Sasha Schmitt feel privileged to work in.
Both originally from Germany, Sabine and Sasha met in Mexico in 2003, where he was a dive instructor and Sabine was learning to dive. They got together and lived there for two years, then travelled around until they found their ‘home’ in the Cook Islands in 2006.
Sabine expanded her passion for underwater photography and marine conservation and education once they bought The Dive Centre and settled. Sasha is the senior instructor and in charge of the diving and maintenance. He especially loves his collection of old glass bottles, all found here in the water. In 2007, the partnership was extended to include Patch, their mascot, and one of the big attractions for visitors to The Dive Centre.
“We really have to look after our lagoons,” said Sabine. “If we don’t teach the kids to how to look after them, there will be nothing left over for future generations”.
One of the points that Sabine makes when briefing her guests is ‘not to feed the fish’. She said they are friendly to underwater visitors, but she emphasises that the fish will stop cleaning the reefs if they are hand-fed regularly by divers and snorkelers.
“I also remind guests not to step on the coral, which is very fragile and doesn’t recover once broken.”
“We want our guest to have an absolutely awesome day, but we want our lagoon to have a good day too!”
“Guests are encouraged to explore the abundant fish variety of the lagoon right across the road from the Dive Centre in the Aroa Marine Reserve as a snorkeler or diver. Alternatively, if they take a trip outside the reef they will feel the ‘real’ difference that Rarotonga and The Big Fish has to offer.”
Sabine is a pro-active committee member of the Te Ipukarea Society. Ipukarea is literally translated as ‘our heritage’. The Society’s philosophy is that ‘we do not own our land and marine resources, but borrow them from our future generations, and need to leave them in good condition’.
“We try to make a difference, especially in reducing the rubbish,” said Sabine.
“A friend who collected plastic wrappers, started to make a wallet and I really loved the idea. It was colourful and attractive; importantly, it helps take the rubbish off the landfill. Now I make them!
“I stop at the roadside to pick wrappers up. I also ask my friends, staff, and students of the nearby Rutaki School, to collect them for me too.”
Today, Sabine is a prolific manufacturer of plastic wrapper handbags, wallets and baskets. It is real local art!
“The wallets start at $45. What a unique souvenir from the Cook Islands!” said Sabine.
When in Rarotonga, visit Sabine at The Dive Centre in Aroa Beach, or contact her through thedivecentre-rarotonga.com.