16 Aug Cook Islands, Suwarrow National Park
We arrived at the coral atoll of Suwarrow on August 3. When we were several miles from the entrance to the atoll, we heard chatter on the VHF radio. It was Helen from sv Nighttide and Julie from sv Manna. They were planning to meet for Yoga on the beach and also deciding on what day for a potluck. After 5 days out on the South Pacific Ocean and seeing only one vessel, it felt almost like a mirage. Beach Yoga and social events! We were getting excited for landfall!
As we motored into the pass, we notified the Park Rangers on radio channel 16 of our arrival. Once we got into the anchorage we realized how busy it was. We motored around looking for a spot, we knew a couple of boats anchored out in the deep water, it seemed like a safe place to be so we put our anchor down.
Within minutes of anchoring, Rangers, Harry and John were aboard. First order of business was bio-security. Spray the cabin with Arandee (an insecticide; permethrin and d-phenothrin, supposedly nontoxic to humans, possibly toxic to cats). Luckily we had been given a heads up so all food was safely put away, dishes, utensils, etc were covered with paper towels in their cabinets and drawers. Next we handed over our checkout paperwork from French Polynesia, lots of forms were filled out, passports looked at and pictures compared, rules discussed (no dumping food scrapes in the lagoon, as they wanted to keep the sharks outside of the reef 🙂
There are many reefs and several Islands in Suwarrow. You are only able to step upon Anchorage Island, which is pretty small (156 ft wide x 1 mile long). It took about an hour to walk around the island at low tide (otherwise swimming would be involved). It is super beautiful here. (There is a book, “An Island to Oneself”, that we read about Tom Neal, who lived alone in Suwarrow for several years.) It was super exciting to visit there.
When we first arrived we knew five boats from La Cruz, (Puerto Vallarta, Mx) and met other yachties, so we stayed super busy. We had Yoga on the beach quite a few mornings. Katie from sv Sea Casa had just become a full fledged instructor, before she came out to the Pacific. It was fun for her to teach her first Yoga classes on a desert Island beach in the middle of nowhere, and it was so awesome for us students to have actual classes! The setting was magnificent, as we are on the beautiful white sand beach, making sure we do not put our mats underneath a coconut Palm Tree, gazing out on the gorgeous water.
We also had social get togethers on the beach; an afternoon potluck, a game afternoon with board games & dominoes, a Pizza night and one evening we checked out the Coconut crabs after dark. (They are super cool, the biggest and oldest one we saw was about 18 inches long!) Sunset cocktails on the beach, basket weaving taught by assistant ranger John. John and Harry also showed us how to husk coconut’s and open them for their milk and the meat. It was fun watching the teens learning and continuing to partake.
Another afternoon we played games aboard sv Muskoka. Laurie and I started out playing Gin Rummy, then the kid contingent of Megan, Haley and Zennon arrived with Bingo. After several rousing rounds of Bingo, we moved on to Mexican Train Dominos. It was amazing how quickly the young ones learned the game. We had so much fun we are thinking of re-naming it to Camp Suwarrow or Suwarrow resort :).
The Snorkeling was the best we have had so far. We traveled by dingy to One Tree Island and another day to Seven Islands where we saw beautiful coral and many species of fish. However, the coolest snorkeling was right near the anchorage at Manta Ray reef, where we snorkeled with Manta Rays. Our first day, when we were about ready to head back to the dingy, we saw this amazingly large Manta Ray swimming towards us. It was so majestic, gliding through the water, slowly flapping its wing like pectoral fins, making a large arcing turn, floating up or floating down. So big and beautiful. It had white markings on its back that look like a heart with a line going out to the tips on its dorsal fins.
Our second day at Manta reef, a smaller Manta Ray swam nearby and as we were following it, another one swam towards us. It seemed as this one “wanted to play” as it swam around with us for 10-15 minutes. It would circle around the coral beneath us and glide this way and that, we were able to get some good pictures of this beautiful all black Manta. One of the snorkelers mentioned that they kind of felt like paparazzi, following the Ray’s, but it appeared as if the Ray’s did not mind their pictures being taken 🙂
We had beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We also had some different weather patterns come through. This anchorage is known for boats having anchorage problems and some dragging anchor and sinking! We were a little nervous when the winds picked up, especially from the South, as the fetch builds up across the lagoon. As we were blown this way and that throughout our 11 day visit, our anchor chain got tangled in the bombies (coral heads). Thank you Dan from sv Dazzler for coming to our rescue and scuba diving down 60 feet to untangle the mess under Miss Maia.
It is always hard to move on, we are on our way to American Samoa about a four day journey further West. Better internet? US products? We will find out soon enough.