Far away and mysterious Niue
Somehow fate took me to a small Polynesian island, the name of which would tell even an experienced traveler little. It’s the island of Niue, a word – a bit foreign to the Russian ear. Despite its obscurity to the general public, this island is an independent state in free association with New Zealand. The official head of state is the Queen of Great Britain, represented on the island by the High Commissioner. Somehow I am sure that no monarch of Great Britain has ever set foot on this island.
I, unlike the monarchs, decided to spend one of my vacations on the conquest of this godforsaken piece of land. The island itself is quite small, its circumference is paved with asphalt road length of just over 60 km.
Nevertheless, I’ve read on the Internet before the trip, Niue is the largest raised coral atoll in the world’s ocean, which was formed around an extinct ocean volcano about 3 million years ago.
The only way to get here is by plane from New Zealand, which flies very rarely. During my visit to the island, New Zealand Airlines flew to Alofi, the capital of Niue, only once a week. Therefore, I was stranded on this “paradise” island for a whole week. A bonus for visiting Niue was a week in my beloved New Zealand.
Information about rest on Niue is scarce, it’s mostly holidaymakers or pensioners from New Zealand and Australia, or inveterate divers from these same neighboring countries. And of course the currently ubiquitous groups from China. All the activities on the island are designed for these target audiences, and since I’m not yet a retiree, and not an advanced diver, at first I didn’t even know what to do on the island. For the entire island there are only a few hotels and one hostel, but I had to distinguish myself – I booked a private house for the whole week. And I did it to save money, because the prices for accommodation on the island exorbitant, and I was lucky enough to rent a house out of season for 180 New Zealand dollars a day, in fact turned out to be a small shack with one room, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom with shower.
On the first day the island greeted me with inclement weather and heavy rain, the car of the owner of my house for this reason got stuck in one of the many puddles, so no one picked me up at the airport. As expected, on the island with a population from 1.5 to 2 thousand there was no public transport, and as it turned out, there was no cab either. I had no way to get through to the owner of my apartment, which I found out later was not surprising, because the gracious woman gave me the number of the landline of my hut instead of her cell phone. I had to make pity eyes and join a group of tourists from Australia, who came with me on the same plane. They were met by a hotel representative who drove me to her hotel and thanked her very much – she fed me a delicious free lunch and let me stay at her hotel until I could get through to my hostess.
After taking advantage of her hospitality for 2.5 hours, I did not manage to get in touch with the landlady, then my rescuer asked for the name of my landlady and surprisingly immediately called her mobile number, saying that her guest is in her hotel. I understand when in our villages, everyone knows each other, but here it turns out that everyone in the whole state knows almost every citizen of his country. By the time I called the hostess had already managed to get out of the puddle and within 10 minutes she came to get me at the hotel.
On the way home she apologized 10 times to me for being late to the airport and, as a bonus, dropped me off at the capital’s supermarket and moped rental place.
I was unpleasantly disappointed – it turned out that the owner of the apartments lives on the other side of the island from the summer house that I rented to her, and for the next week she had a big family event planned – her son’s wedding, so the house was at my sole disposal, and I was deprived of breakfasts, because, of course, her son was in first place for her, and the daily 20 minute trip to the rented apartments is the long-distance traffic by the standards of a small island. And, really, she only has to drive one-third of the way around the perimeter of her state. That said, she kindly apologized that she couldn’t lower the price of the cabin because of the large upcoming expenses for her son’s wedding. I nodded my head approvingly, not wanting to clash with her on the first day.
Five minutes after leaving the hotel we drove into the capital of the island, which was in my opinion a small village with one main street. On both sides of this street were sparse government buildings, a post office, a police station, the offices of local companies, some warehouses, and the homes of the capital’s inhabitants.
None of the buildings were higher than three stories, and most of these buildings looked hastily built, without the slightest thought of architecture or attractiveness. As it turned out later, this is due to frequent cyclones that hit the island every January. The biggest cyclone that almost completely wiped out all the settlements on the island was Cyclone Heta in 2004.
First we stopped in front of the supermarket, where I had to buy provisions for seven days. The hostess warned me at once that it was out of season on the island and it was the only store where you could buy food, restaurants were also closed, and if you don’t cook yourself, you can only dine at the two hotels currently open on the island, but the prices there are outrageous. For visitors who are not guests, the price tag starts from 70 New Zealand dollars for a modest dinner without alcohol. I was not happy with this situation, so I decided to stock the fridge for the whole week. To my great regret, there was very little choice – just canned goods, cereal, soda water, salt, sugar, matches, sunflower oil, and the unforgettable “Bush legs,” which looked like pieces of yellow ice that seemed to have been frozen since World War II. I did not pack a lot of these things, but I spent about 300 New Zealand dollars, for which I would have bought 10 times more various provisions in Russia. The hostess explained to me that the reason for this unhappy situation is that all the supplies come from New Zealand on a ship that docks in the main harbor of the island once a month. For the locals, the arrival of the ship is almost the main attraction. The day after the ship calls into port, long lines of locals line up at the supermarket, sweeping the delicacies brought from New Zealand from the shelves within hours, and until the next ship arrives, the supermarket shelves resemble the crisis years of the Soviet Union. But I was reassured by the landlady’s words that kind neighbors lived next door to the house I rented and I could always drop in to borrow some food, but then I would have to give it back to them.
The next stop was the moped rental shop, the prices for renting which I was horrified, and I decided to explore the island for 7 days on foot. What a kind woman was my landlady, seeing my devastated face, she promised as a bonus to the house is completely free to use her bike. I could not refuse such a generous offer, and it really helped me out a lot. I biked the entire west coast of the island during my vacation.
After doing everything we needed to do in the capital city, we finally set off in the direction of my apartment, and after a leisurely 15 minute ride we arrived at a tiny little house with thin plywood walls clad in siding. There were no other buildings in sight, and I felt like Robinson on a wild island.
The hostess pulled out the keys from under the mat, pulled out and handed me a blunt machete for some reason from the back room, and gave me a brief tour of the house, showing me where the dishes were kept. In the course of her story, I was enthralled by the information that the TV could be left off, since the plate had been carried away by the last cyclone, and that Niue’s state channels only broadcast on holidays, which were not expected during my short visit. I looked at my cell phone; there was no connection. And then I realized that for seven days I was completely cut off from the world. After that the hostess said goodbye to me warmly, took the money in advance for the entire stay (not much more than that – as much as 1 260 New Zealand dollars), and said that we will never see her again. On the day of my departure from the island, she had arranged with an acquaintance of hers to drive me to the airport. I prayed to myself that during my stay the island would not be hit by another cyclone, and that I, like Ellie in The Wizard of Oz, would not fly the flimsy shack into the open ocean. The thought kept me awake for at least half the night, and I realized I was a grain of sand. The night was cold enough, and the rain did not stop pounding on the galvanized roof. I fell asleep with the idea that I was in for a very merry week’s rest.
I woke up to the pleasant warmth of the sun’s rays warming my face. I opened the window, and immediately my mood changed, being saturated with sunlight. There was no trace of yesterday’s rain. God had heard my nightly prayers. I will say right away that not a single drop of rain fell before the day of my flight. It was only on the day of departure that the island bid me farewell with a little rain. We had had time to fall in love in that short time, and I, too, had a few stingy tears when we said goodbye.
That day I decided to get to know the capital in more detail, find some tourist bureau and book myself a tour of the local sights. I saddled up my two-wheeled friend and took a leisurely drive towards Alofi. It was about five kilometers. I pedaled and contemplated the beauty around me. Apparently because of the annual cyclones there were no tall palm trees and other tall trees on the island, the surrounding flora was just a thicket of impenetrable scrub, through which sometimes I saw beautiful flowers, unseen before.
Niue – a secluded paradise in the Pacific
Niue is a gorgeous tropical island state. Small in size (only 260 km2) the island holds a pristine charm.
It is a paradise in the Pacific.
It is both similar to the tropical islands of paradise, but different in some ways. Niue is one of the smallest countries and one of the largest coral atolls on Earth.
The island’s population is mostly Polynesians. There are only about 1600 people.
An interesting fact – Many people call Niue “The Rock. This is due to its traditional name “Rock of Polynesia”.
Where is it
Niue is located in the South Pacific, east of the International Date Line. The nearest major country is New Zealand, 2,500 km southwest.
Niue is at the center of the Polynesian triangle of Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands.
Geographical coordinates (-19.058911, -169.859471)
What is Niue
Technically, it is a self-governing state. However, it is in close association with New Zealand, the country closest to it. That is why New Zealand conducts most of Niue’s diplomatic relations in its own name.
The government of the island is, you might say, nestled in a modest building
The people who live on the island are also considered New Zealand citizens, with many of them actually living in New Zealand.
Most locals speak only the native language of Niue. But about a third of the population speaks English well.
Niue consists of 14 villages. Each is governed by a council, which elects its own chairman. In addition, there are elections every three years.
The villages here are quite cozy.
Since 2003, the country has been part of a strategy to integrate Niue into the larger community.
Features of Niue
The island is quite a popular place to visit, known for its exceptional beauty. It is one of the largest coral islands in the world.
The main feature of the island is that it consists of two levels.
The upper level of the island is a limestone cliff, which runs along the entire coast. But the lower level is a terrace, which also extends along the entire coast.
The main part of the island is sort of elevated above the ocean, and the coastline is like a platform.
Niue in Tourism
Due to its considerable distance from the continents, the island is still little visited by tourists.
However, you can find very nice hotels.
Coming here, consider some facts:
- The average annual temperature is about 25-27 ° C
- The New Zealand dollar is in circulation here. However, there are no ATMs on the island. Money can be withdrawn from the Kiwi Bank in the village of Alofi (on the west side of the island). By the way, Alofi is the capital of Niue. Currency exchange is available at Niue Rentals
- It is unacceptable to wear swimsuits in villages on the island. You should wear a sarong in public places so as not to offend the locals
- Although a remote island, it is easily accessible by direct flight from Auckland to the North Island of New Zealand
- Niue has its own official website
Niue is a downshifter’s paradise.
Many people who visit the island decide to stay here for a few months.
It may seem strange, but it can be hard to resist the relaxed island life.
The island would be a good place for downshifters. Here is a great opportunity to live in isolation from the noisy and often cluttered world. You won’t have any stores, cafes, or movie theaters. This means that you will have to learn to live in an almost pristine world.
Interesting fact – the locals call white people “palaji”. But don’t worry – it’s not an offensive term.
Anyway, people here are extremely friendly and hospitable. After all, it has not yet reached the “civilized” society.
An interesting fact – in 1774, English navigator Captain James Cook tried to land on Niue three times, but the locals refused him. That’s why Cook named it “Wild Island”.
By the way, we recommend you to learn about one of the most unusual islands in the world – North Sentinel Island – perhaps the most inhospitable island on the planet
Attractions of Niue
There is always something to see and do on the island. You can explore limestone caves, snorkel in warm, crystal-clear water, and swim where the local kings once swam.
Local art and culture
One of Niue’s festivals
You’ll be able to attend one of the many annual village festivals. Each is a combination of unforgettable dances, traditional arts, local food and sporting events.
The women of Niue are famous for their weaving skills.
So you can easily find authentic bags and hats at low prices at local fairs or at the bi-weekly market
So you can easily find exquisite bags and hats at low prices at local fairs or at the twice-weekly market.
Tahiono Art Gallery
Tahiono Gallery is an exhibition of contemporary art and jewelry produced on the island since 1995. The gallery showcases the work of everyone associated with Niue, including the work of local resident Mark Cross.
The gallery is located in the main shopping center in Alofi.
Hikulagi Sculpture Park.
It is located 2 km south of the village of Liku. This park was founded in 1997 by several local artists as a platform for large sculptures.
Much attention is paid here to contemporary environmental issues.
In particular, this composition reflects the problems of pollution of our Planet
Fale Tau Taoga – National Museum of Niue
Fale Tau Taoga opened in October 2018. The museum preserves artifacts salvaged from Cyclone Heta in 2004. The collection is being expanded with new exhibits acquired from 2005 to the present.
Thanks to the numerous mountain bike trails around the island, you can take a closer look at the beauty of the island. Bicycles can be rented on the island.
Diving and snorkeling
The underwater visibility is spectacular
Underwater walks in Niue impress with an interesting combination of limestone caves and coral reefs.
What sets Niue apart is its incredible crystal clear water. Visibility in the coastal waters can reach up to 80 meters and rarely drops below 30 meters. Add to this the great diversity of marine life and you have the perfect diving sites to explore over and over again.
Caves of Niue
Niue’s coastline is literally dotted with hundreds of magnificent caves and cliffs.
The island’s coastal caves
They are all unique. And some of them, where the sea has receded these days, are used to store local canoe boats. Other caves were used in the past as burial grounds or as living quarters.
Many caves are still forming, with stalagmites and stalactites in all stages of growth, and can be explored independently.
Such caves can already be found on the island itself
Interesting fact – According to some European speleologists, Niue has the most spectacular and extensive cave system in the entire South Pacific Ocean
Whales often appear in coastal waters
Every year from July to October, humpback whales arrive in the island’s coastal waters. They nurse their calves in the warm waters. Niue is one of the few places in the world where it is allowed to swim with whales, of course with all safety and respect for the animals.
These graceful giants can be seen even from the land from special viewing platforms. Sometimes whales swim just 20 meters from the shore.
The darkest skies and the best stars
One of the best places on the planet for stargazing.
Niue is the first country in the world to be named the place with the darkest sky. Although it made more sense to call it “the island with the most starry skies.”
The island has received official accreditation from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) as an international dark sky sanctuary.
As you may have realized, this is where you can observe the amazingly beautiful stars in the endless night sky.