Monday, 16 September 2013

camp suwarrow

Suwarrow, on a very still day
A laid-back check-in
We checked into the country barefoot.* With an introduction like that, we knew we had come to the right place. Suwarrow was to be our only stop in the Cook Islands. Time was the only reason we did not explore more of the country Lonely Planet describes as “fifteen droplets of land cast across 2 million sq km of wild Pacific blue”. (Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga, p.44) We chose Suwarrow over Rarotonga, because we wanted less city and more nature. You can definitely call this place a nature lover’s paradise, what with its seabird colonies, rich marine life, and turquoise waters. (Yes Dana, more turquoise waters!) Suwarrow is the Cook Islands’ only national park. This atoll gained attention because of a man named Tom Neale who lived here on and off between 1952 and 1977. He wrote about his adventures in the book entitled An Island to Oneself.

Nice, huh!

Charlie and his coconut crabs
Now, the atoll is overseen by two park rangers for 6 months of the year. They’re kind of like camp leaders. This year’s two rangers are Charlie and Harry. Charlie is the effusive I’m-your-best-friend, this-is-your-home, come-talk- to-me-if-you-need-anything-guy. (He takes people on trips to the bird colonies and snorkelling in exchange for some gasoline, he organizes shark feeding viewings on the other side of the island, and he takes people fishing.) Charlie has a big personality. Charlie also makes his own tasty coconut beer. It makes for an interesting combination at times. The important thing is: he loves everyone and he wants you to have fun.

Harry singing some of his original songs
At first, Harry seems very serious. He’s composed, quiet, and calm. He takes care of all things official. If you take the time to get to know him, you will find out that he is a very friendly, laid-back fellow. I enjoyed talking with him about the years he spent in New Zealand and why he chose to return to his Maori roots in Manihiki, where he owned a pearl farm until 2005. Now he’s a ranger here, while his family lives in Rarotonga. He composes and records songs about his culture, and the losses his people are experiencing as many flock to a different kind of life in NZ. We had the pleasure of hearing him play some of his songs during one of the jam sessions on the beach. If you come here, make sure to take the time to get to know him, he’s a great guy. (Oh, and he loves scones.)

Our friendly neighbours drop by for a visit... 

The classic dive shot
There are many reasons to wax poetic about Suwarrow. The manta rays, the snorkelling. The clear waters, the little island with hammocks scattered among coconut trees, the yoga sessions on the beach. The barbecues that included freshly caught fish; the music: various musicians that traveled through dusted off their instruments here. 

We met some wonderful people and enjoyed the communal aspect of cruising in a laid back surrounding. You could say it was like summer camp, without the angst.






Cleaning fish, (the discards were thrown out on the other
side of the island, don't want to excite the sharks in the
 anchorage now!

Making time to play with pens and pencils

One of many jam sessions!

Terns, terns, and more terns... (Seabird colony) 
Clear, clear waters...

Pretty coral


Manta Rays!

Making friends with the manta ray...

Kim is eyeing the freshly caught and barbecued fish for the potluck

Another lovely day ends in Camp Suwarrow
*This is not our normal practice, we always try to look presentable out of respect when we check into a country. But Suwarrow has a different vibe: it felt just as respectful to walk barefoot. After all, our host was shirtless… It balanced out.

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