Like diving, but you stay dry

Monday March 27, 2017 Written by Published in Hot on the Rock
Stephanie Jansen moved to Rarotonga from Tauranga, New Zealand to run the reef sub after spotting the business for sale on Trade Me. 17032406 Stephanie Jansen moved to Rarotonga from Tauranga, New Zealand to run the reef sub after spotting the business for sale on Trade Me. 17032406

The colourful beauty of Rarotonga’s coral reef is a must-see for any visitor to the island.


And Reef Sub Tours guarantee lucky passengers can get up close and personal with some of Cook Islands’ most magical underwater scenery – and a wonderful assortment of fish and other marine life.

The semi-submersible cruise boat gives those who are unable or unwilling to dive, snorkel or swim the opportunity to enjoy the underwater sights without getting their toes wet. 

This week CI News had the opportunity to climb aboard the reef sub and experience first-hand the spectacular experience Jansen and her team offer.

Despite not making eye contact with a whale or observing a family of turtles swimming by, I was in admiration of the beauty the reef sub shows its passengers.

My hour on board was filled with excitement, education and enthralment.

Owner Stephanie Jansen has been running the boat for almost three years, after moving from her home town of Tauranga, New Zealand.

“I moved here as a single mum. I saw the reef sub business for sale on Trade Me and had never been to Rarotonga before, so after the auction kept popping up on my home page i made an enquiry, two weeks later i made an offer and I have never looked back,” Jansen told the passengers aboard her boat.

Like all boat tours passengers are welcomed aboard, seated and entertained with stories and music as you leave the harbour, as the water clears and passengers move down to the observation deck their experience becomes unique.

Six glass windows are located below deck and allow passengers to sit at eye level with spotted eagle rays, turtles, and other marine life.

Sometimes passengers might even spot schools of Amber Jacks and reef predators such as barracuda and white tip reef sharks.

Some lucky passengers who have taken a cruise on the reef sub in previous years have received extra value for money – they’ve seen whales, and some even witnessed the birth of a humpback whale. The huge creatures are most likely to be spotted between July and October.

The trip includes a cruise along Rarotonga’s northern coast over shipwrecks including that of the RMS Maitai which sank on Christmas Eve 1916 after hitting the reef off Avarua. That familiar theme song for the movie Titanic wafts through the boat. Jansen laughs, remarking she knows its cheesy, but the passengers all giggle and admire the wreckage just metres away.

The boat heads into the Avarua harbour and nestles in front of Trader Jacks. This time Giant Trevally and schools of smaller tropical fish swim around and below the boat.

From there the boat cruises over the coral garden in a breathtaking scene that could be straight out of the classic cartoon movie Finding Nemo.

Jansen says on a beautiful day there is nothing better than being out on the ocean,

“we (Jansen and her son) are out on the water as much as possible, fishing, spotting, anything to be out on this water,” Jansen said with a beaming smile.

Reef Sub Tour cruises run at 9am, 11am, 2pm, and 4pm and bookings are encouraged.

Cruises can take a maximum of 16 people and private charters are available.

For more information call 55901 or visit

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