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Suwarrow Threatened Again

Tranquil and unspoiled, Suwarrow has always been a favorite stop for Pacific cruisers.

© 2007 Bob Bechler

One of the most delightful and unspoiled places in the Cook Islands is Suwarrow. Located in the far north of the Cook Islands, this atoll lies halfway between Bora Bora in French Polynesia and Samoa, and has always been a favorite stop for cruising boats crossing the central Pacific.

Several years ago the Cook Island government proposed opening Suwarrow Island to commercial enterprises. That proposal was met with outcries from concerned cruisers around the world and was stopped before any changes were implemented. Now the same proposal is again beginning to resurface. It includes opening up Suwarrow to commercial pearl farming and other types of for-profit businesses. Suwarrow became infested with termites years ago so copra export is prohibited.

A New Zealander, Tom Neal, lived alone on Suwarrow from 1952 until he died in 1977 and wrote An Island To Oneself about his experiences there. Suwarrow is currently a National Park and a nesting site for thousands of sea birds and turtles. Frigates, tropic birds, petrels and other sea birds have nesting sites on the motus around the lagoon.

Nesting birds abound on this tranquil atoll.

© Bob Bechler

Cruisers are charged a flat fee of $50 to anchor in the lagoon. This fee helps defray the cost of having the caretakers stay on Suwarrow during the cruising season. The current caretakers, John and Veronica and their three boys, have been on Suwarrow over the past three seasons. They greet cruisers and explain the rules of the preserve. The rules, developed with cruisers over the years, help keep Suwarrow as pristine as possible. John and Veronica also put tours together to take cruisers to outlying islands to see the nesting sites. Usually evenings are spent with beach gatherings, potlucks, and entertainment provided by cruisers, with John playing his guitar. Snorkeling inside the lagoon is fantastic and scuba diving on the outside reef is memorable. The caretaker must give his permission for scuba diving trips.

It would be a shame to loose this National Park to commercial businesses. Concerned cruisers can send their views to Cook Island National Environmental Service, Attn: Vavia Vavia, PO Box 371, Rarotonga, Cook Islands or via email.
Once lost, these pristine islands can never be regained and brought back to their natural state.


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