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Niue

Photo © zod66

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia Niue

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Introduction

Niue

Niue

© All Rights Reserved zod66

Niue is a small splice of ecological joy in the southern end of the Pacific Ocean. Some 600 kilometres (372 miles) 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.

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Brief History

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.

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Geography

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.

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Regions

There are 14 main local villages - these villages send an MP into Parliament.

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Cities

  • Alofi - Is the largest city and capital.
  • Hikatavake
  • Mutalau
  • Lakepa
  • Liku
  • Avatele

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Sights and Activities

Matapa Chasm

Matapa Chasm

Matapa Chasm

© All Rights Reserved KeahiCory

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 Arch

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Whale Watching

From June to October it is possible to see Humpback Whales only 50 metres (150 feet) 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.

Dolphin Watching

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.

Diving

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.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Cycling - With a mix of sealed road, dirt track, slow drivers and almost no traffic makes the island a great place for cycling. Also every May there is an annual cycling race that circuits around the islands ring road.
  • Hiking - Walk around the virgin rain forest and experience the natural beauty of the island.
  • Caving - Explore some of the best caves in the South Pacific, which are actually more amazing then their underwater cousins. These caves are so large and numerous that until the 19th century the majority of the residents on the island actually lived in them. The best guide to find is Tali Magatogia and it is possible to contact him at the Niue Tourism Office in Alofi. Cave tours can be arranged for any difficulty level.

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Events and Festivals

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!

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Weather

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.

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Getting there

By Plane

Flights arrive at Niue International Airport (IUE), also known as Hanan International Airport. Currently only Air New Zealand is servicing Niue from Auckland once a week.

By Boat

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.

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Getting Around

By Car

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.

By Bus

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.

By Boat

No need to get around by boat, unless you are doing some marine activities.

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Red Tape

No entry requirements for visitors not staying longer than one month, except a valid passport and proof of onward/return transport of course.

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Money

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.

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Language

Niuean is the offical language. Everyone speaks English and the level of English spoken is of a high level.

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Eat

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:

  • Washaway Cafe (open on Sunday only) in Avatele, pour your own drinks behind the bar!
  • Jennas Buffet - Traditional island food buffet. Tuesday evening, in Alofi - make sure you book.
  • Crazy Uga Cafe - Alofi, good for a bite and a iced coffee! Usually open from about 9:00am - 2:00pm Weekdays.
  • Fish n Chips - available in Alofi-Field/Commercial centre, weekdays.
  • Sushi House - NEW to Alofi, the Sushi house will satisfy with its healthy array of food.

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Sleep

Niue has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. The tourism website is a good start to look for places or otherwise google.

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:

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Health

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.

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Safety

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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

There is no cell phone network at all on Niue.

Post

Niue Post can be found at Alofi-Field/Commercial Centre in Alofi.

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Quick Facts

Niue flag

Map of Niue

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Capital
Alofi
Population
1,200
Government
Self-governing Parliamentary Democracy in free association with New Zealand
Religions
Christianity (Protestant, Catholic)
Languages
Niuean, English
Calling Code
+683
Nationality
Niuean
Local name
Niue

Contributors

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Niue Travel Helpers

  • KeahiCory

    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!

    Ask KeahiCory a question about Niue

This is version 61. Last edited at 8:03 on May 21, 13 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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