Suwarrow National Park
Described by the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson as “the
most romantic island in the world,” Suwarrow is perhaps the
most famous of the Cook Islands after
Rarotonga and Aitutaki. A true atoll, the island of Suwarrow was
declared a national park in the 1978 and is the only one of its
kind in the Cook Islands. A great place
to visit when touring the region, the Suwarrow National Park is
home to a unique array of bird and marine life.
Located in the center of the Cook Islands roughly 800 km northwest of Rarotonga, Suwarrow is an uninhabited atoll (only two rangers live on the island) with a total land mass of just 0.4 sq km. What makes this tiny island so special is not only its many natural wonders, but its historical significance as well. Discovered by Russian explorer Mikhail Lazarev in 1814, this island was named Suwarrow after Lazarev’s ship the ‘Suvarov.’
Used as a German hideout during World War One, Suwarrow’s main claim to fame is that this atoll is a bona fide ‘treasure island.’ In the mid 19th century a ship which landed here claimed to find a buried treasure of gold coins worth over NZ$15,000. Shooting to fame again in the late 1960’s as the home of New Zealand writer Tom Neale for 16 years. Much of Suwarrow is described in Neale’s book “An Island to Oneself,” which went on to become an international best-seller.
An important seabird nesting ground in the Central Pacific today, Suwarrow is the main breeding ground for eleven seabird species. Lesser Frigate birds, Red-tailed Tropic birds, Sooty Terns, Great Frigate birds, Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies and Masked Boobies are all known to nest here. Additionally, Suwarrow is also an important resting place for the Vulnerable Bristle-thigh Curlew.
Getting to Suwarrow can be quite difficult since not many boats
visit the island; however, you can get a ride here via the research
boat Bounty Bay which operates out of Rarotonga.
If you have a rental yacht, you can sail here by yourself, but you
need permission to land on the island as it is a protected habitat.
Having for centuries captured the imagination of nature lovers and treasure hunters alike, Suwarrow is a superb place to spend an afternoon.