The North and South Minerva Reefs are two submerged atolls between Tonga and Fiji to the north, and New Zealand to the south.
At the beginning and end of the tropical cyclone season, the Minervas are a frequent rest stop for sailboats headed to or from New Zealand.
Both Tonga and Fiji claim the Minervas. The dispute has yet to be resolved.
Both are essentially rings of coral enclosing central lagoons. At low tide, the reefs are partially above sea level and provide smooth water in the lagoon for anchoring or landing. At high tide waves of two to three feet may occur in the lagoons if it is windy and the surrounding seas are six feet or more in height.
The only way to visit them is by boat or seaplane. Both North and South Minerva have wide passes through their reefs allowing entry for deep draft sailboats. However, South Minerva has coral heads in the pass and in the anchorage area as well. The coral heads are not difficult to avoid in good seeing conditions, however in rough seas and squally, cloudy weather it can be dicey. North Minerva's pass and lagoon are both clear of coral heads
Dinghies and kayaks are the most viable options. In North Minerva the sandy lagoon bottom shallows near the inner edge of the reef. In most places it is not difficult to anchor a dinghy in 10 feet or so and step off on to the reef at low tide.
There was at one time the foundation of a lighted beacon at the south end of North Minerva.
The snorkeling along the inner edges of the reefs is excellent and varies as one goes around them. The Blacktip and Whitetip reef sharks are pretty timid.
Crayfish, or tropical lobster, are plentiful. Tuna, jack and other reef fish are easy to catch in the passes or along the outside of the reef.
North Minerva can be a haven of refuge in winds up to 35-40 knots assuming normal tides and absence of storm surge. Anything beyond that and it would be better to head for Fiji, Tonga or New Zealand as the season dictates.
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