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A passion for Cook Islands

Tuesday 20 July 2021 | Written by Alana Musselle | Published in Features, Go Local


A passion for Cook Islands
Pietro Pazzi and Eltje Bambenek, founders of Island Awe. 21071910

A couple with a vast love for the South Pacific and the Cook Islands in particular has developed perhaps the most versatile travel guide out there. They hope the travel guide will create in others the same love they have for the country they come to call one of their favourite places.

Pietro Pazzi and Eltje Bambenek lived in Germany before relocating to the Cook Islands where they lived for several years. 

Both were successful executives in the corporate world but over the years grew weary and bored with this life. Then they decided to make the bold decision of leaving their corporate lives behind to travel and explore the South Pacific with the intent of exploring its vastness and beauty. They aimed to relocate and settle somewhere deep in the heart of the Pacific which would allow them to continue their ventures within the rest of the region.

Of all the places they visited in the region, the Cook Islands and its people attracted them the most. They bought and rebranded the Dive and Surf Shop and made a life for themselves in Rarotonga.

However they soon discovered that the little shop required a lot of attention and that it was taking them away from their priority which was to travel and explore the rest of the outer islands. They were able to employ some people to run the Dive Shop and were finally able to get out and explore all of the inhabited islands of the Cook Islands which brought out their true passion.

It was through these ventures that their passion project, ‘Island Awe’ came about. Island Awe is a 307-page travel guide with 643 images covering all of the inhabited islands within the Cook Islands.

Through their travels, Pazzi and Bambenek have been able to compile an overview of the Cook Islands as a travel destination and guidance on all the best things to do while there, detailed maps of nine major islands, geo-codes of all the places referred to, and full contact details for everything from transport, accommodation, eating, shopping, and all other activities on offer. They have also included tips of things they think in their opinion everyone must experience on each island.

Their goal through their website is to share with other travellers their stories of island adventures through the South Pacific which according to them is “an adventure that cannot be completed in one lifetime”.

Through writing their island experiences, sharing their many photographs and videos, they have the hope to capture the essence of each unique island and then package what they have gathered first hand, through their comprehensive travel guide.

“The travel guide is aimed at answering all those questions customers would ask them while in the shop, regarding what to do, where to go, how to get there etc. But the travel guide is also aimed at showing the world the very beautiful outer islands, the Cook Islands’ hidden gems,” Pazzi said.

The couple sold their Dive Shop just weeks before the Cook Islands started to feel the impact from Covid-19.

“It was a blessing in disguise you could say, as we were both feeling the adventure bug and sensing it was time to move on,” he said. They sold the shop to Vonnias and decided to move to French Polynesia while they continued to complete the travel guide.

Now located in Cape Town, South Africa with the travel guide completed and available at the tips of the next adventurer’s fingers, the pair can sit back and think about when they can possibly return to visit the Cook Islands some time in the future when it is possible again.

Island Awe is now available on Amazon, Apple Books, as well as through an online version on their website IslandAwe.com. It is also currently being promoted in New Zealand.

A free edition is currently in the works, Pazzi shared. This free edition will be distributed globally and locally and gives local businesses an opportunity to present and market their services and offerings.

They plan to launch the free version around September/October of this year should people start planning their 2022 travels.

“People are hungry to travel again that’s for sure,” Pazzi exclaimed.

He shared that once the global pandemic starts to blow over, they will most certainly return to the South Pacific to continue their exploration. This will include a visit to the Cook Islands.


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