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Paradise found in Suwarrow

August 1, 2013

Hello from Brian and Sandie after spending ten wonderful days at the Suwarrow atoll in the northern Cook Islands (lat: 13 14S, long: 163 06W). This was one of our favorite destinations 25 years ago and it did not disappoint this time around. Suwarrow is a Cook Island national park that became well known as the home of Tom Neale who wrote “An Island to Oneself”.

Our sail from Bora Bora was a quick 4 days with daily runs up to 180 nm and included catching a nice mahi mahi. But it was dead down wind and a bit rolly and we are happy to clear the pass and enter the quiet lagoon at Suwarrow where a dozen other boats are already anchored. Once we are settled in we are greeted by the only two inhabitants of the island; Harry who checks us into the Cook Islands and Charlie the social director.

The next morning we snorkel with a group of manta rays that live near the anchorage. The largest measures 9 feet wide and is dubbed “Darth Vader” because of its all black coloring. These beautiful docile creatures glide past us as if in slow motion as we click away with our GoPro. It becomes a regular event to dive with the mantas before breakfast.

Charlie offers to take us to the east end of the atoll in exchange for gasoline and rum so we can see the nesting birds and the coconut crabs. First stop is “Bird Island” where the terns and frigates nest. The terns lay their eggs directly on the sand where they blend in completely. It’s like an Easter egg hunt finding the eggs so as to not step on them while the adults assault us from overhead. The frigates build their nests in the low scrub brush and we see eggs, naked new chicks, and fuzzy older chicks. The frigates do not take flight as we walk past them, although they vocalize their displeasure at our presence.

Next we go to “Coconut Crab Island” where Charlie has been feeding the crabs that now look forward to his visits. They hear the outboard engine and come out of their daytime hiding spots to meet us at the edge of the beach. There are hundreds that scurry to Charlie as he opens coconuts with his machete and scatters them about. We finish off the excursion with snorkeling along the coral wall before heading back to the boat.

We enjoy two evenings of potluck dinners on the beach with our fellow cruisers. Charlie always catches wahoo for the grill and each boat brings a dish. These are great moments to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. The evenings include guitar music by Harry and dancing by Charlie. On non-potluck nights we congregate on the beach with our cocktails to watch the sunset. Not a bad way to end the day!

A weather front passed through and we spent a couple of days confined to the boat. On one of these afternoons we invite three other boats to join us in a game of Trivial Pursuit. We spend the other afternoon aboard “Time 2” taste testing a new pizza recipe. Even the bad days seem great!

After 10 days we become restless and decide to take advantage of a weather window and head for Niue. We make one last trip ashore for hugs and good-byes before bringing the dinghy on deck and raising anchor. Suwarrow is truly the paradise we had hoped it would be.

Nice Mahi Mahi as we arrive in Suwarrow

Nice Mahi Mahi as we arrive in Suwarrow

Manta rays of Suwarrow

Manta rays of Suwarrow

Manta ray with remoras

Manta ray with remoras

Largest and blackest of the mantas; “Darth Vader”

Largest and blackest of the mantas; “Darth Vader”

Manta ray

Manta ray

Manta ray

Manta ray

Manta with remora and cleaner fish

Manta with remora and cleaner fish

Manta ray

Manta ray

Brian with the GoPro

Brian with the GoPro

Charlie takes us to see the birds and coconut crabs

Charlie takes us to see the birds and coconut crabs

Frigates and terns make their nest on a Suwarrow motu

Frigates and terns make their nest on a Suwarrow motu

Brand new frigate chick

Brand new frigate chick

Coconut crab comes out to eat Charlie’s offering

Coconut crab comes out to eat Charlie’s offering

Happy coconut crab

Happy coconut crab

Coconut crabs really do climb coconut trees

Coconut crabs really do climb coconut trees

Sandie nearly stepped on this eel

Sandie nearly stepped on this eel

Blue Lips embedded in the coral

Blue Lips embedded in the coral

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

Snorkeling east end of Suwarrow

East end Suwarrow

East end Suwarrow

Dinghy landing at Suwarrow

Dinghy landing at Suwarrow

Suwarrow is centrally located

Suwarrow is centrally located

Book exchanges are very popular with cruisers

Book exchanges are very popular with cruisers

Anchorage at Suwarrow

Anchorage at Suwarrow

Charlie catches wahoo for the potluck dinner

Charlie catches wahoo for the potluck dinner

Charlie feed the fish guts to the sharks

Charlie feed the fish guts to the sharks

Wahoo on the Barbie

Wahoo on the Barbie

Potluck on Suwarrow

Potluck on Suwarrow

Sunset view while having cocktails on the beach

Sunset view while having cocktails on the beach

Charlie dances to Harry’s music

Charlie dances to Harry’s music

Charlie arranges the cooked coconut crab for the feast

Charlie arranges the cooked coconut crab for the feast

From → Travel

7 Comments
  1. moses permalink

    Amazing pictures. Loving the pollution free environment.

  2. And here I thought the coconut crabs were pets! You ate them…..Great pics.

    • they are tasty, at least the meat is. We still can’t bring ourselves to eat the belly stuff (need more alcohol). — Brian

  3. Coconut crabs look cool! Brian, you’re so hi-tech with the Go-Pro swimming with mantas. You guys really are in the middle of nowhere. Looks like an amazing place.

  4. Randi B permalink

    We heard from others it got really rough out there for a bit. Sounds like you missed the worst of it. thank goodness.Hope the South African pizza was as good as my Canadamerican kind!

    • We’ve had a lot of dead down wind and we can’t seem to bring ourselves to veer off the wind and go on a tack. The overnighter to Vava’u was a bit rough; hard on the wind. Check out the latest post. Sandie gave out the tooth brushes. — Brian

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