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Niue is a small splice of ecological joy in the southern end of the Pacific Ocean. Some 600 kilometres away from its nearest neighbour, Tonga, the island has gained renown as one of the best spots in the world to swim with whales. Nothing beats coming face to face with half a dozen of the world's largest seafaring mammals as they drift through the warm Pacific waters, occasionally surfacing for a magnificent leap out of the water.
Diving, also, is exceptional in these parts. Beveridge Reef is an ideal spot, but since it's a whopping 300 kilometres away from Niue, self-governing yachtees are probably the most likely to enjoy its treasures. Niue Island itself awards travellers with a fiery nightlife on weekends and inviting walks, hikes and cave expeditions. Snake Gully offers supreme snorkelling, but as the name suggests, you won't be the only creature enjoying its waters.
The people are said to be the friendliest on earth, the country is laid back and often feels like time goes slower here. Niue has something to offer everyone.
Niue was settled by Polynesians from Samoa around CE 900. Further settlers (or invaders) arrived from Tonga in the 16th century. Until the beginning of the 18th century, there appears to have been no national government or national leader. Before then, chiefs and heads of families exercised authority over segments of the population. The first European to sight Niue was Captain James Cook in 1774. Cook made three attempts to land on the island but was refused permission to do so by the Polynesian inhabitants. He named the island "Savage Island" because, legend has it, the natives that "greeted" him were painted in what appeared to Cook and his crew to be blood. However, the substance on their teeth was that of the hulahula, a native red banana. In 1887, King Fata-a-iki, who reigned from 1887 to 1896, offered to cede sovereignty to the British Empire, fearing the consequences of annexation by a less benevolent colonial power. The offer was not accepted until 1900. Niue was a British protectorate for a time, but the UK's direct involvement ended in 1901 when New Zealand annexed the island. Independence in the form of self-government was granted by the New Zealand parliament with the 1974 constitution. Robert Rex, ethnically part European, part native, was appointed the country's first premier, a position he held until his death 18 years later. Rex became the first Niuean to receive a knighthood, in 1984. In January 2004, Niue was hit by Cyclone Heta, which killed two people and caused extensive damage to the entire island, including wiping out most of the south of the capital, Alofi.
The geography of Niue is spectacular. It is a raised coral atol. From north to south the island spans about 22 kilometeres, while from west to east it covers about 18 kilometres. A raised coral atoll forms when a coral reef grows on an underwater volcanic peak, which is then raised above sea level. This can happen from both earth movements and falls in sea level. Niue consists of coral limestone - old, dead coral that now makes up both the central bedrock and the coastal cliffs. The volcano on which Niue is formed is extinct. The island has steep cliffs which means that there is little or no beaches, however there are large chasms and watering holes. Limu, Matapa and Togo being the most popular. Boasting some of the clearest water in the world (visibility of up to 150 metres) Niue is a must see destination for anyone interested in unique geographical locations.
There are 14 main local villages - these villages send an MP into Parliament.
Matapa Chasm is located at the northwest part of Niue near the village of Hikutavake. The fresh water stream entering the chasm below sea level, keeping the water cool and it is a favourite place for swimming and sightseeing for locals as well as for tourists. The best time for swimming is around mid-day as the water is flanked by very large cliffs.
Talava Arches and Caves are located next to Matapa Chasm. The walk is harder than Matapa so it is advisable to take good sturdy shoes. Talava is a complex place of Caves and Arches with huge columns of Stalatactites and Stalagmites are everywhere, the colours are breathtaking and you must take care with some slippery wet parts.
Limu is a sheltered pool, great for snorkeling and swimming in. The view from above the pools is spectacular, and the many different types of fish in the pools will amaze. There is also a second pool to the right, just behind the picnic area. Walk over the path and climb down a ladder to find an even more stunning set of pools and an arch to the ocean.
Togo is an amazing site. About 30 minutes of walking from the car park will take you though a rainforest, the razor blade pinnacles of coral and then finally to Togo (pronounced Tong-o). In amongst the razor blade pinnacles is an oasis (with no water). A sandy beach nestled with coconut Trees. Explore this area, its amazing.
Avaiki Cave is the place where the first people that settled Niue arrived. It is name named after the Polynesian homeland. Ther is a narrow gorge leading to a coastal cavern cradling a heavenly rock pool but unfortunately swimming is forbidden at Avaiki on a Sunday and when the kaloama (goatfish) spawn, so plan your trip carefully if you do want to have a swim. Palaha Cave is nearby (only 200 metres away) and has some fantastic stalagmites and stalactites.
Hio Beach is the longest beach on Niue and also has the finest most beautiful stretch of sand anywhere on the island. It can be reached by a wooden stairway down the cliffside. Here you can actually walk instead of swim across the reef, but only at low tide. There you can find a marvellous snorkelling pool, but be sure to get back in time again or you will need to swim back. The chasm is full of tropical fish and is fringed with coral and it also has small overhangs, caves and swim-throughs.
Vaikona Chasm can be reached by a short hike through the forest and coral pinnacles. From here you can descend into through a sloping cave to the chasm floor and nearby is a small freshwater pool as well. A larger pool is yet further away and both are fringed by lush and green ferns. To swim under a wall is just great and the area is pretty dark inside the cave as well, which only adds to the charm. There are even more caves to explore, but don't offer better experiences. You will need to be guided though and you can rent an underwater light, mask and snorkel which really are required to enjoy the Vaikona Chasm to the max.
From June to October it is possible to see Humpback Whales only 50 metres from the coast! You can see both pods and individual whales that shelter in the bays around Avatele and Tamakautoga. This is one of the few places on the earth that you can actually watch whales from the shore. For the more adventurous traveller, due to the few people visiting Niue, there is an option to actually go swimming, snorkeling or diving with whales.
There are many dolphins that live permanently around the island. Although the dolphins will not do tricks, like at a zoo, you will get to see dolphins in there natural habitat, which is quite nice. It is also possible to go swimming with dolphins, which is much safer then swimming with whales.
Niue's clear waters, with visibility of 50 to 70 metres, make for great diving. Because Niue has no lakes or rivers, the water filters into the ocean threw a network of amazing caverns, caves and cathedrals. The corals have many different kinds of wildlife to explore and see. Because, the island juts out of the ocean it is only a short distance to go experience deep water diving. Niue Dive is a local dive operator, but due to limited gear it is best to contact them before going to Niue.
There are many local events throughout the year. You should check with Niue Tourism for specific dates. New Years is one of the biggest parties of the year in Niue. Each village has a show day once a year, these include music, cultural performances, food etc. A must see!
Niue’s first festival of the year combines solemn prayers with lively ‘drive bys’ where people drive around in brightly-decorated vehicles. In fact, the word takai means ‘going around’ in English. Each day of this festival during the first week of January is filled with sporting competitions, dancing, and daily church services. Many motorists toss sweets to children while driving the full 40 miles around Niue’s main ring road. All government offices are closed during this island-wide holiday.
Each February 6, the people of Niue observe this New Zealand national holiday on the anniversary of the date the country’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840. Like their counterparts in New Zealand, Niueans celebrate this special day with speeches, concerts, and relaxation on the beach. Reggae music is sometimes played in honor of Bob Marley, whose birthday also falls on this date.
Every other April, Niue hosts this fascinating arts and culture festival to celebrate the island’s culture. Many Niueans who live abroad flock back to their homeland to reconnect with their families and loved ones. This festival attracts many of the island’s finest dancers, musicians, visual artists, photographers, and artisans from home and abroad alike.
Like their counterparts in Australia, New Zealand, and many other South Pacific islands, the people of Niue observe this April 25 holiday honoring military veterans. The island’s first Anzac Day in 1947 was also the same day the village of Mutalau unveiled its war memorial commemorating the villagers who served in the WWI Niue Contingent. This day typically includes a church service, and umu kai feast, and storytelling sessions.
Each second Sunday in May, the people of Niue celebrate this holiday in tandem with Mother’s Day. On White Sunday, children sing songs, perform skits, and give church sermons while dressed in new white clothing. A feast of chicken, taro, and sweets follows. This holiday is also celebrated in Samoa and Tonga.
This holiday, known as aho he maama in Niuean, falls on the first Monday after the island’s Constitution Day, which falls on October 19. This is the day Niue adopted the constitution which granted the island its current autonomous, self-governing territory status. Peniamina Day, on the other hand, is named after and celebrated in honor of the Niue-born and Samoa-trained pastor who successfully brought Christianity to the island.
Niue has a warm tropical climate with humid conditions year round. Temperatures are very consistent throughout the year and vary from 25 °C during the day in July and August to around 28 °C from December to March. At night, temperatures range from 20 °C in July and August to 24 °C in February and March. Records are 11 °C and 38 °C. The April to October period is slightly cooler but has drier and sunnier conditions and this is when waters are calmer as well. November to March has much more rain and the occasional typhoon can hit the island, although years can go by without any severe storm. June is the driest month with around 80 mm of rain, while March sees 300 mm of precipitation.
Flights arrive at Niue International Airport (IUE), also known as Hanan International Airport. Currently only Air New Zealand is servicing Niue from Auckland twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays (arriving in Niue on Tuesday and Friday). Huge crowds gather at the airport to meet every flight. Everyone (including New Zealanders) must have a return ticket. There is a $34 (cash only) departure tax upon leaving (not included in price of plane ticket). You might want to avoid flying in around religious holidays such as Easter or Christmas, or the October Constitution celebrations, as seats are often at a premium, since many Niueans return home at these times.
There are no regular ferries or other boats making the trips to Niue, so your only option are by private yacht which can enter at Alofi wharf.
The best way to get around the island is by car or if you feel a little more active, by bycicle. Both can be rented at several offices near the airport or Alofi. Even motorcycles and scooters are an option. There is one circular road and several unpaved road in the interior. You need to get a local driver's licence first, these can be obtained from the police station in Alofi for a cost of approximately NZ$23. Remember that driving is on the left as well and speeds over 60 km/hour are forbidden, it is not law to wear a seat belt.
TIP: Drivers in Niue wave to each other.
There is no public transport on the island, but taxis travel between the airport and the island's tourist destinations. Most accommodations will arrange private airport transfers as well.
Hire a bicycle for NZ$15 at Alofi Rentals and $10 at Niue Rentals. Cycling around the island takes around three hours.
No need to get around by boat, unless you are doing some marine activities.
No entry requirements for visitors not staying longer than one month, except a valid passport and proof of onward/return transport of course.
See also Money Matters
The official currency in Niue is the New Zealand dollar (NZD). 1 dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins. Bills are issued in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
Opportunities to work on Niue are extremely limited.
Teaching positions may be available at some of the primary schools, and if you are interested in investing, Niue encourages investment in new and existing businesses.
There is one small campus, a branch of the Fiji based University of the South Pacific and only one high school and one primary school. However, you can learn a lot about the history and culture of Niue just by speaking with older people who are in the know.
Niuean is the offical language. Everyone speaks English and the level of English spoken is of a high level.
Local specialities include uga (coconut crab), anything with coconut, and the like. If you love tropical fruit you'll have fun in Niue; passion fruit, cassava, taro, vanilla, kumara, and various other fruits are available but it can be a bit hard finding where to buy them - try the Tuesday or Friday morning market in Alofi, or various roadside stalls. The supermarket has a limited selection.
One suggestion for eating out on Niue is to plan - book ahead, that way the restaurant will know you are coming and will be sure to stay open for you.
All the main eating places are in Alofi and there is a variety of food from fish and chips, to Indian food, paninis, pizza, etc.
It is said that Niue has the best Taro in the Pacific because it is moist and flavoursome! Try it! For some light relief (bearing in mind that the weather is tropical) you can by Rocky Roads for US$1 (2.60 in NZ) and Frujus for US$0.80c ($2.60 in NZ) at Swanson Supermarket in Alofi.
Places of interest:
Niue has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. The tourism website is a good start to look for places or otherwise google.
You must book your accommodation before arrival or you may be sent back to New Zealand.
Most places to stay are in or near Alofi, and there are one or two options going toward Avatele. Accommodation is non-existent on the eastern side of the island unless you have friends or are fortunate enough for a local to invite you in. Camping is permitted as long as you're not on private land but is strongly discouraged due to mosquitoes and, like in many Pacific islands, locals can take it like you're rejecting their hospitality.
One place which is understated is Niue Backpackers in Alofi, a friendly, homely accommodation close to all the main stores in Alofi.
There are also several other sites to find accommodation. These are:
Coconut water is very refreshing and naturally rehydrates you on a hot and humid day.
For the really adventurous, try Noni juice at the Vaiau Farm. Anything that tastes that bad has to be really good for you!
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Niue. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Niue) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Niue. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccinations, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Niue is very safe. Locals leave their cars unlocked and their belongings out in view. The police station is in Alofi. The emergency contact number is 223.
Wear a helmet whilst cycling because an accident would be catastrophic and the nearest major medical facilities are in New Zealand and Australia. Seatbelts in vehicles aren't obligatory but it's advisable to wear one anyway.
Emergency services and in-patient care for surgical conditions are provided at the sparklingly clean and newly re-built Niue Foou Hospital in Alofi, but travel insurance is strongly recommended.
For some of the caves, especially Vaikona, it is strongly advised to go with a guide unless you're experienced because people have been lost and injured in some of the island's caves.
There is an internet cafe in Alofi. Most forms of accommodation will have wifi though as Niue is the only country in the world where internet is free.
See also International Telephone Calls
There is now a limited mobile phone service on the island, which only works in some parts of the island. You can buy a SIM card from the Telecom Office for $34 (plus $5 credit), however there is limited sizes of SIM cards so make sure it fits into your mobile phone first. There are no roaming agreements with NZ mobile operators.
Niue Post can be found at Alofi-Field/Commercial Centre in Alofi.
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Ask KCory a question about Niue
Been to Niue a few times to catch up with friends and whanau! We now go there every year! Can swear it is one of the best Islands in the Pacific!
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