Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Suwarrow - An island to oneself
Anchorage Island - 23 August to 8 September - 2010 - 13.15.00S-163.06.50
Suwarrow, also spelled Suvarov, is an atoll that lies 703 nautical miles south of the equator. It is 170 miles S.E. of Nassau Island, 210 miles S.W. of Manihiki, about 450 miles eastward of Pago Pago, and 513 miles N.W. of Rarotonga, from which it is administered.
Basically, Suwarrow is in the middle of nowhere.
Tom Neale who lived in solitude on Suwarrow for many years, recorded his experiences in his book An Island To Oneself.
Today, the atoll is a National Park of the Cook Islands. It is uninhabited during hurricane season when it is not allowed for vessels to stop here. During the months of June to November two park rangers take care of the atoll and of the cruisers that stop here every year in increasing numbers. This is one of the Cook Islands destinations for boats doing the Pacific crossing, there is no other way to get to this remote place.
The rangers this year are James and Api, they make sure everybody has a good time while still caring for the atoll and its wild life.
They are left in the atoll at the beginning of the season with supplies to last them until they are picked up at the end of the season. Most of the time this is not enough for them. Before we left Bora Bora we've been told they were running out of cooking gas, so we brought with us the big gas bottle we bought in Fakarava and left it with them.
James and Api are fantastic people and love their country and their beautiful islands. They feel responsible for the cruisers and are exceptionally friendly. If you are into fishing they'll take you fishing and show you the good places, if you are into spear fishing they will take you as well, if you prefer to be on your own they'll tell you where to go and how to be safe.
Once a week Api organizes a coconut crab hunting, you are allowed to go only once on this hunting trip, so that crabs are not endangered by abuse hunting. Every two or three days they organize pot luck dinners, where they cook all the fish that was caught, or the crabs or lobsters and the cruisers provide the side dishes and the drinks.
We did a lot of snorkelling in some incredible places, all fantastic but the best is called Perfect Reef. It is a reef with a lagoon inside the lagoon and it is perfect.
We've never seen such this incredible amount of fish and of course where there is fish there are sharks, and there are so many sharks. Spear fishing is easy, what it is hard is to keep the fish, the sharks are always fast and unless you can take the fish out of the water and into the dinghy fast you don't have much chance.
We went on the crab hunting trip and had a lot of fun in the process. At night we had a feast of crabs, all cooked by our dear rangers James and Api.
We came to Suwarrow with the intention of staying 4 or 5 days but we are now into the third week. This is really the best place we have been and we are sadly getting ready to leave.
There is not enough time for us to go from here to Tonga, there isn't a good weather window either, so it seems we'll be missing on Tonga. Our next destination is Western Samoa and we are already asking Bob McDavitt for weather advice.
Our last night in Suwarrow is my birthday. There is a potluck dinner, there are many of us leaving tomorrow so this is a farewell as well.
Like every other time before, when the food is served, Api says a prayer, every body listens, and as always his prayer starts with "Thanks for sweet Suwarrow ..... " and between all of us, we couldn't agree more ....
Graciela with Api and James
Api giving directions for crab hunting
Oscar looking for coconut crabs
Corals in the Perfect Reef
Friendly sharks, anywhere you look
On another dinghy exploration we went to the opposite side of the lagoon where the birds breed.
James is not happy if many people go there disturbing the birds so we promise we won't get too close.
This is another amazing site. So many birds, big and small albatros and some red footed boobies. Couples with their babies, each within their own space, taking care of the eggs or taking care of the little ones.
When we slowly approach some birds come flying complaining we are coming, the ones on land try to hide their little ones, there is one bird trying to hide an egg while looking the other way, kind of saying, there is nothing here for you to see.
I think these birds hardly see a human being and they are very nervous, so after a little while, trying not to make too much noise, we leave.
There is some kind of magic in Suwarrow.