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 Suwarrow - Profile

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Photo courtesy of World ARC.

Suwarrow was for many years the home of a New Zealand hermit, Tom Neale, who wrote of his life in a book "An Island to Oneself". Today, caretakers live on the atoll for most of the year, their solitude disturbed only by visiting yachts!

John Samuela, his wife Veronica and their young boys were island caretakers for several years and gave many cruisers fond memories of Suwarrow. The family have now moved on and the turnover of caretakers tends to be more frequent.

The 2016 Suwarrow Officers are Park Ranger Harry Papai and his son Pae.

The caretakers live on the Island from May to November (the Suwarrow National Park officially opens on 01 June) and a Cook island flag is flown from the flagpole on the jetty when the caretakers are there, and taken down each day at sunset.

A cyclone shelter (two story building) was built to safeguard the Officers during their stay on Suwarrow. The foundation houses a big water catchment tank that takes water off the large steel roof. The first floor is open and serves as the living and eating area (now affectionately called the Suwarrow Yacht Club - photo courtesy of Lisa Dorenfest).

Supplies for the caretakers, such as fresh veggies, eggs, fruit and fishing lures would be greatly appreciated, especially as Pae is a keen chef. Just sharing a few meals on the beach over some beers, or joining in a musical session, would also be enjoyed.

New Rules 2014 means that now it is only possible to anchor at and walk upon Anchorage Island. Other anchorages are off limits due to 7 shipwrecks and a rat eradication programme which (2016) is still ongoing

August 2014 saw a 47ft Amel beached on the reef when their anchor chain broke - a reminder of how exposed this anchorage can be in bad weather.

Position 13° 14'28"S, 163° 06'01"W.

Clearance

Yachts Intending to Arrive at or Depart from Suwarrow Island

Suwarrow Island is not a nominated Customs Port of Entry. Marine craft intending to arrive at or depart from Suwarrow Island MUST obtain authorisation from the Comptroller of Customs. To obtain this authorisation, an application to the Comptroller of Customs must be submitted using CICS Form 27 which can be found on the Customs Website: www.MFEM.gov.ck. This form once completed can be emailed to: customs.applications@cookislands.gov.ck or faxed to (+682) 29465.

The Comptroller of Customs will consult with the Ministry of Agriculture, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and the Cook Islands Police before granting an authorisation to arrive at Suwarrow Island, and has the right to deny the application.

Failure to arrive at a nominated Customs Port of Entry without authorisation is a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding $100. Customs officers may also elect to detain/seize your craft pending prosecution.

The Suwarrow officers are able to provide official Cook Islands border clearance papers if permission has first been obtained from Customs and Immigration to visit Suwarrow first.

See Cook Islands Formalities for complete clearance information.

Suwarrow has park fees of US$50 per boat to anchor for up to 2 crew for a minimum of 3 days. If there are more than two crew on board there is an additional charge of US$5. Longer stays can be negotiated.

The caretaker usually comes out to your boat for the entrance papers in the morning between 8am and midday, so if you arrive in the afternoon you can expect them the next morning.

Boats are requested to ensure that they do not introduce rats, mice, fire ants, or any other invasive species. Also to fumigate the boat before arrival. This is a pristine environment, and it is important to keep it this way.

Park Rules

Suwarrow is a national marine park and visitors are urged to preserve its environment. In order to keep the park as pristine as possible and to keep visitors safe, some rules have been put in place. These include:

1. Spear fishing is not permitted
2. Scuba diving is not permitted
3. The taking of coconut crabs is not permitted
4. Permission must be sought from the caretaker before visiting other islands in the atoll.

The caretakers are able to take visitors to other motus and snorkeling sites, however this will depend on their availability. The only fee imposed for such a trip is a gas share with all people in the boat bringing a share of the gasoline needed for the trip.

See this pdf for the full Notice of Rules Relating to Suwarrow National Park.

For further information on Suwarrow National Park contact the National Environment Service at resources@cookislands.gov.ck

Last updated August 2016.

Docking

The caretakers have a VHF radio and you are able to call them on Ch.16, call sign "Suwarrow".

The pass is wide and lines up with Entrance Island on the other side of the lagoon. From 13º14.5S 163º06.0W a course of 178ºT will take you through most of the pass. The depth goes down to 5 metres then increases just before reaching South Reef, situated in the centre of the inner end of the pass. This can be seen just below the surface if the light is good and waves will break on it if there is a swell. It is possible to turn to starboard once clear of the Anchorage Island Reef, and pass between it and South Reef. Or turn to port leaving South Reef to starboard and go around it, before turning towards the anchorage.

The anchorage at Suwarrow is not very big. It's deep water requiring lots of scope, so when the wind shifts things can get interesting. Buoying your chain is definitely recommended.

The anchorage is sand and coral from 25 metres down to 14 metres or so, if you tuck in beyond the jetty. It is sheltered from Easterly winds, but would be exposed to a Westerly and it totally open to the South, with a long fetch across the lagoon.

It is not permitted to anchor elsewhere in the lagoon.

Yachts would have to put to sea if a strong westerly was forecast as the long fetch in the lagoon can cause large waves, which break across the entrance making conditions hazardous.

As the bottom is patchy sand and coral, it is well worth snorkelling to take a look that your chain is not around a coral head before lifting anchor. Visibility is good, so a snorkeller in the water can give directions to untangle any fouling, even in the deeper parts of the anchorage.

Dinghy landing is on the north side of the rock jetty that does not extend right out to the edge of the reef, so outboards have to be lifted for the last few metres.

Yachts must take their rubbish away with them, as there is no facility for disposing of rubbish on Suwarrow.

Last updated August 2016.

kelvin
kelvin says:
May 30, 2015 01:52 AM

Please note that we undertook a rat eradication exercise on Suwarrow 2 years ago, with help from the the Critical Ecosystem Protection Fund and the European Union. We ask all yachts to be very vigilant thatthey do not bring any rats or mice to Suwarrow. This is a very important bird breeding ground for the Pacific Islands, and we need to keep it rat free. We also ask that boats are sprayed for other invasives, such as fire ants, or anything else that could destroy our paradise! If you have any suggestions about how to spread this message out to all yachts that visit Suwarrow, please let us know at info@tiscookislands.org (Te Ipukarea Society, Birdlife International partner in the Cook Islands)

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 30, 2014 09:05 AM

Lisa was in Suwarrow in August 2014 - her blog has some useful info: http://lisadorenfest.com/2014/09/17/suwarrow/

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