Suwarrow Park rangers Maarateina Vakapora and Harry Papa’i have returned home to Rarotonga after nearly six months away to carry out necessary monitoring of sailing vessels calling in to Suwarrow. MELINA ETCHES/23111406
After six months away to carry out necessary monitoring of sailing vessels to the Cook Islands Suwarrow National Park, veteran park ranger Harry Papa’i and assistant park ranger Maarateina Vakapora have safely returned home to Rarotonga on MV Lady Moana.
Every year, the
National Environment Service (NES) sends two park rangers to Suwarrow for six
to eight months of the year to protect and manage the environment and wildlife
of the island – a designated national park and bird sanctuary since 1978.
They are returned
to Rarotonga every November when cyclone season starts.
On May 31 this
year, the Suwarrow National Park reopened its maritime borders to visiting
international vessels after having been closed since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The couple has
been kept extremely busy during this period, monitoring the 152 yachts that
called in to Suwarrow, along with the 483 visitors, and carrying out a flora
and fauna baseline survey.
“We have been
really busy, and it has been a good experience,” said Vakapora.
“We are thankful
to Taio Shipping for picking us up, and we brought our boat along with us since
we couldn’t get it back to the shelter.”
Both Vakapora and
Papa’i are happy to be back on Rarotonga to reunite with their families and
reconnect with the outside world.
couple was looking forward to enjoying a hearty meaty meal and a good rest.
island of Suwarrow, its reef, and the six-kilometre area around it are totally
protected under Cook Islands law. Yachts require special permission before
visiting the island.