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An Introduction to Niue

Discussion in 'Niue' started by Hix, 11 Jun 2011.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    20 Oct 2008
    Twenty years ago I ventured north to Micronesia on a three week holiday - Guam, Palau, Yap, Truk and Pohnpei. Prior to visiting I did some reading up on Pacific islands, and that's where I first learnt about Niue.

    Niue is a small island, roughly circular, about 24kms from North to South and 19kms from East to West (at the widest points). It has a circumference of around 60kms and a land area of around 260km2. It's located between Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.

    Unlike virtually every other nation in the Pacific, Niue consists of only a single island. It is the world's largest raised coral atoll. The entire island is limestone (hence it's nickname "The Rock of Polynesia"), and is riddled with caves. Surrounding the island is a reef flat which may be only a metre wide, or 50 metres wide. behind the reef flat are vertical walls several metres high - Niue has no large beaches, only very small ones and you generally have to climb down a steep incline to get to them.

    Niue is a self-governing nation, in free association with New Zealand, and has a population of between 1100 and 1400 people. However, there are more than 20,000 ex-pat Niueans in New Zealand.

    When I read about this unknown island, right off the tourist track, I knew I wanted to visit. However, 20 years ago the only way to get to the island was on the cargo ship that visited once every six weeks. There was no tourist accomodation, and no camping permitted, so unless you knew someone living there and they were prepared to put up with you for six weeks, it was gonna be pretty difficult. Unless you had your own yacht.

    Last year I learnt that Air New Zealand now flies to Niue once a week. I put in for some holidays and booked my flights, getting a package deal that included flights from Sydney and accomodation (there is now a total on 90 beds for tourists on the island). Although it rained frequently during the week I was there (and it rained non-stop on the Sunday), there was still plenty of sunshine and I still got badly sunburnt. I enjoyed my week there so much I'm going back again shortly, for two weeks this time.

    One of the things I liked was the lack of tourists - they get about 800 Australian tourists a year. In comparison, Fiji gets more than 800 a day. The week I was there last October I believe there were around 25 tourists visiting; the place I was staying only had me and two couples.

    As well as virtually no tourists there is no crime, no mobile phones, no ATMS, no Mastercard or Amex or Diners, no movie theatre, no nightclub (or any nightlife apart from bats, geckos and barn owls) and no compulsory wearing of seatbelts.

    The waters of Niue are warm (28ยบ) and clear, and teaming with life. The western side is sheltered and calmer than the eastern coast. But you don't even have to go into the ocean to see the marine life. Many of the reef flats are lower in the middle than the edges resulting in large pools, some the size of Olympic swimming pools, and varying in depth from a metre to two or three metres. Limu Pools has been described as like "swimming in an aquarium". The fish are everywhere!

    Scuba diving is fantastic, and tyhe island's only dive company can take you out to not only dive at the various reef locations, but will also take you snorkelling with Spinner Dolphins and Humpback Whales. Niue is one of two places in the world where you can legally swim with whales, and whales will sometimes even come over to have a closer look at the snorkellers.

    There's also lots of sea snakes, or more correctly, sea kraits. There are two species, one only found around Niue, the other widespread throughout the Pacific. Although common (one of the most popular dive sites is called "Snake Gully" because of all the snakes) and highly venomous, these snakes are extremely inoffensive and very reluctant to bite - I saw a child jump off a rock into the water right on top of one, hold it up in the air and give it a shake before letting it go.

    Terrestrially, there are around 30 species of bird (plus the occasional vagrant), some subspecies of which are endemic, and eleven species of reptile. There is still lots of native vegatation including a large tract of rainforest in the middle of the island.

    For more information check out Welcome to Niue and also see my photos in the Niue gallery.