The Big Fish Dive Centre has a philosophy of getting people to safely enjoy their underwater experience, whether it’s their first or their thousandth.
Many divers are not in the Cook Islands primarily to dive, but are more likely just on holiday and choose to get a few dives in. The Big Fish offers programs suited to divers at all stages of their diving journey:
- Free of charge diving try-outs at selected resorts: Puaikura Reef Lodges; Manuia Beach Resort; Muri Beach Resort; The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa; Club Raro; Pacific Resort and Magic Reef Bungalows.
- Refresher dives to re-familiarise with the equipment, assembly/disassembly, buoyancy control, swimming with scuba gear and some skills like recovering the regulator and clearing a mask in the lagoon across the road.
- Double tank dives via their spacious boat on the various dive sites on the fringing hard coral reefs and scattered wrecks around the island.
They have lots of gear for hire in a variety of sizes, and take great pains to ensure the equipment is correctly sized and fitted to the individual. For example, they have pocketed weight belts for comfort, and offer a shorty to go over your full length suit in the cooler months.
The Big Fish Dive Centre has a new purpose built boat which is fast and stable, will comfortably take 20 tanks, and has a permanent mooring in the harbour by the wharf.
As well as regular PADI training courses, from Discover Scuba Diving to Open Water and beyond, they offer the full gamut of PADI Specialist courses: from Underwater Navigation to Naturalist, and Digital Underwater Photographer to AWARE – Coral Reef Conservation Speciality Course.
They also offer a Bubble-makers course and can accommodate families who wish to dive with their children, (if have the right aptitude for diving).
If you are planning a trip to the Cooks and want to do some diving whilst you are there, get in contact the the Big Fish Dive Centre before you go so that you can work the best days to dive.
Over the road from: The Aroa Marine Reserve
Assemble at the Big Fish Dive Centre to sort the gear and do the paperwork. Most people do a few dives and so it’s worthwhile investing the time to get a wet suit that fits perfectly, a BCD that is comfortable, and fine tune the weights.
Guests are issued a full-length 3 mm, and another 3 mm shorty over the top in the cooler months. The weight belts are the comfortable pocketed type, and there is a depth gauge and contents gauge on each set of regs. Once guests are kitted out, their gear is loaded into the back of the truck on top of the tanks.
Guests in dry gear or dry wetsuits travel in the minibus and should take a towel to come back in as no wet gear is allowed in the minibus. Once on the dockside, we human chain the gear onto the boat which has its own mooring at the wharf a few metres away. Tanks are quickly readied and suits swiftly donned then we’re skimming across an iridescent blue carpet. The commute to the northern dive sites is just 10 minutes in the fast, purpose designed boat.
Many of the dive sites have mooring buoys, and for those that don’t, it’s almost possible to see where to drop the anchor so it doesn’t take out a coral head. The dive brief follows with max depths and times: 60 minutes for the first dive, and 50 minutes for the second. The dive route follows an arc by the deepest part of the dive first, which means air pigs can be dropped off en route if required.
There’s plenty of room on the deck to gear up and the large flat clear floor makes the walk to the rear platform easy even in the largest fins. From there it’s a giant stride or the unconventional Sasha entry into the turquoise blue sea.
We can see the bottom from the surface and so descend vertically from where we are to the bottom to join the colourful marine life on the hard coral reef.
First, up will be the colourful surge wrasse the most brightly coloured of all the wrasse and quite inquisitive. Well for a fish! Next will be the butterflies (usually in pairs). The threadfins here are as fearless as the wrasse. They arrive in twos or even a school and get very close, observing you and ignoring you at the same time. The dot and dash butterfly pairs are a little more circumspect and keep their distance, with one of them always on the lookout to see exactly where you are. You’ll hear the lone parrot on his way through the reef as it scrapes large scratches here and there from the coating coral.
The pace is relaxed and the visibility being 30 m plus is such that we can fan out over a reasonable area and all enjoy our own private dive.
All too soon Kim rattles the bell, where did that hour go? And we’re heading for the shot line. Even during the safety stop, we continue watching the reef below. The rear ladder is a generous size and it’s a simple climb back up onto the boat and into your seat to de-kit on the bench.
During the surface interval, coconut strips – which are surprisingly moorish – and water are served. Guests chat about the new finds and Sasha explains subtle differences in markings found in the local butterflyfish and surgeons: some are in the book-some are not!
The second dive is the same drill, we kit up and are guided to the back of the boat stepping once again into the clear blue water.
As guests arrived back in the boat the tanks are stripped down and the gear is packed into a neat bundle inside each BCD. This makes it easy at the wharf to human chain the tanks, the weights and the gear to the truck and minutes later we’re washing it down at the dive centre. The atmosphere after the dive is convivial, and most guests hang around for a coffee and cookies and to log their dives and their newfound critters.