Having purchased Sheryl and Huw John’s exhibits from the Atupa-based Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Centre which closed down in October last year, Reef Sub owner Stephanie Jansen is now laying the groundwork for her new Discover – Marine & Wildlife Eco-Centre in Arorangi.
“We hope to be open in a couple of months,” she told CINews. “We’re just doing the destruction before the construction. We’re going to start construction next week.”
The new eco-centre is to be located in an old building belonging to Dr Rangi Fariu, once it’s been given “a really good going over”, says Jansen.
“We’re going to reclad the front of it, re-roof part of it, paint it all up and roof the other side.”
In addition to the eco-centre, the building will also incorporate a booking agency for Jansen’s Reef Sub activities, as well as a front-of-house eatery called The Coconut Crab Cafe.
Jansen has big plans for the eco-centre, to say the least, including several aquariums, “touching pools, an aviary for rehabilitating injured birds, a terrarium with centipedes and huntsman spiders, a worm farm, a “living wall” growing herbs and lettuces for the cafe, and an observation hive with bees.
There will also be a library and media room which is intended as “a teaching and meeting space”.
“We want to encourage people to learn about the marine and environmental sciences and that sort of thing,” says Jansen.
“In time, we’re hoping to be able to get some of these people with their PhDs – like Teina Rongo for instance – to come in and do some adult learning and teach level four, level five papers.”
Jansen first moved to Rarotonga in 2015, when she bought the Reef Sub semi-submersible tour business from Sheryl and Huw John after finding it on TradeMe in New Zealand.
As mentioned, she has now bought John’s marine and wildlife exhibits for her eco-centre as well, and the couple will also be helping her get started on the new venture.
“They are helping me initially, to get going, because they are the experts on the island about how to look after the coconut crabs, the fish, the marine life – you know, the things that they were already doing,” says Jansen.
“They’re very good with that, so they’ll be teaching me all that they can about that and helping me set it up in the first instance. It’s all part of our arrangement – then they will be heading off the island at the end of the year perhaps.
“But I’m going to take their vision and I’m just going to grow it a little bit further,” she adds.
Jansen explains that part of the impetus behind her creating the Discover – Marine & Wildlife Eco-Centre is that since moving to Rarotonga she has become “quite passionate about ecology”.
“Having been on the Reef Sub – you know, we’re always picking up rubbish and we’re looking all the time at what’s under the water and talking to people about it,” she says.
“You do get caught up in it, and you get caught up in the single-use plastics thing, and the sunscreen messages and all that sort of thing – it’s all about trying to keep the environment as pristine as possible, so we’ll be doing the same down at the centre.”