Suwarrow, the name itself is calming. Mention that it’s an uninhabited atoll in the South Pacific and you know you’ve found a slice of heaven.
Suwarrow is a National Park of the Cook Islands and is cared for by 2 seasonal park rangers. This year it was Harry and John. Both are veterans of the park and are a wealth of knowledge. They enjoy showing people the island and teaching about its history, its resources, and the culture of the Cook Islands. In addition to cleaning up and watching over the atoll, they are responsible for collecting the $50 National Park fee and serving as a check-in/out point for the Cook Islands.
The only visitors to the island are private yachts, an average of 80 per year. No commercial vessels pass through. When we were there we shared the anchorage with 4 other sailboats.
There’s only one area that anchoring is permitted and only one small island in the atoll that it’s permitted to go ashore. So everyone, including the rangers, congregates on Anchorage Island. With only a small number of boats, we get to know everyone well in the week we spend there. In the course of those 7 days, we had several potlucks on the beach. Every boat is low on fresh food but when we all join together we can create a delicious feast. One evening Harry and John entertained us with singing and guitar. They are both quite good, and I was amazed at how many American songs they knew. The night went long, for cruisers that is, and there was a bit too much drinking, but its all life on Suwarrow.
While we are there I borrowed the book, An Island to Oneself, the story of Tom Neale a Kiwi who spent 6 years living alone on this island in the 50s. It was fun to read chapters and then walk around imagining his life here.
The atoll itself has a nice variety of marine life. While we are there we saw a few manta rays, some of them uniquely, pure black. We saw varieties of fish and sharks. I’m not sure what it was but the sharks there are a bit more ‘aggressive’ than the ones we have previously encountered. Not biting or nipping or anything but getting uncomfortably close. We were lucky enough to see Humpbacks swim into the pass, and apparently a few days after our departure they were breaching within the atoll.
One of the main reasons for the protection of this area and the establishment of a National Park are the birds: terns, boobies, and frigates…in the 1,000s. Because many of these birds nest on the ground the Park prohibits going ashore on most islands.
Leaving here we know that we are fortunate to have been one of the 80 boats that visited in 2019, we know that we may never return, and we know that we will daydream about this place and this time for the rest of our years.