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Warning to Sailors Visiting Suwarrow Atoll in South Pacific

By doina — last modified Jul 31, 2003 11:30 AM

Published: 2003-07-31 11:30:59
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: French Polynesia , Niue , Tonga , Cook Islands , Fiji

This isolated and uninhabited atoll in the Northern Cook Islands (located at 13°15'S, 163°06'W) has been for many years a favourite destination among sailors cruising the South Pacific. The man who put Suwarrow on the international cruising map was a New Zealander, Tom Neale, who, in the 1960s, lived on the atoll for six years. He described his Robinson Crusoe adventures in a book "An Island to Oneself" which inspired many sailors to visit this unique place. Tom Neale died in 1978, but inspired by his experience, the Cook Islands government declared Suwarrow a national park Suwarrow is a major breeding ground for thousands of birds, but in recent years they have suffered from the fact that several small islands are infested with rats, which eat both the eggs and young chicks. A non-governmental environmental association Taporoporoanga Ipukarea based in Rarotonga, capital of the Cook Islands, has now launched a programme of rat eradication. Poison pellets have been placed on several islands and visitors are warned not to eat any coconut crabs as they may have eaten some of the bait destined for rats. Warnings have been posted on all affected islands and the poison is expected to be effective for the next three months (until November 2003).

A warden is now permanently based on the atoll, but yachts are welcome to stop in the sheltered lagoon. Each yacht is charged a flat fee of 50 US dollars and there are no other formalities.