Here are the top 10 things you didn’t know about the country the world forgot about, Niue.
10. That it existed
Niue is just a tiny spec on a map of the Pacific Ocean… One solitary island inside the Polynesian Triangle made up of Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, this is not a place that many people have heard of, let alone visited. This is truly the place that the rest of the world has forgotten about. The island itself is a large, raised coral atoll offering rugged coastlines and spectacular snorkeling and diving on the outside with the Huvalu Rainforest on the inside of the island which is a designated conservation area home to many native trees and indigenous flora and fauna. Niue is 3 hours flying time in a North-Eastern direction from Auckland and has one flight in and one flight out with Air New Zealand each week. In high season (May-October) the flight scheduling is increased to two flights per week to encourage more visitors to this unknown tropical paradise.
9. That they forgot the letter ‘S’
The Niuean bible does not now, nor has it ever included the letter ‘S’. When the missionaries first arrived in Niue and decided to print a bible in the local Niuean language, they ran out of the letter ‘S’ when they were typesetting the original document. Years later when trying to introduce the letter back into the language, a Niuean dictionary was considered to be unacceptable for the inclusion of the forgotten letter. Hence the pronunciation of words such as Avatele – a local village (pronounced Avasele) or Makatea – the Niuean word for coral (pronounced Makasea).
8. There isn’t always a light at the end of every tunnel
Niue is an island of volcanic rock and fossilized coral making the cave systems around the island prolific and creating stunning natural features such as chasms and inland beaches, some of which are yet to be explored. But if you are self-guiding around the island you need to be wary that there is not necessarily a light at the end of every tunnel, not all cave systems connect and some literally just end deep inside the island. Unless you are an experienced caver, or the location is signposted, caution is always suggested and it may even be worth investing in a local guide to assist you.
7. It IS worth it in the end
There are a number of self-guided walks around the island which are very well signed ranging from 200m to 2.5km. Some of these are long and treacherous walks through the fields of ancient coral surrounding the island which can sometimes be not only dangerous but also quite tiring. Half way through some of the more challenging walks I found myself asking “is this even worth it”? The answer is clear when you come across the likes of a hidden inland beach at Togo Chasm. This is a dry sand beach-type area which is walled by 100m of solid coral on all sides.
6. These boots are made for walkin’
The image of a tropical island holiday for any traveller means packing the right shoes… i.e. a pair of flip flops and not much else. On the island of Niue however, there are a few additional footwear items that will absolutely save you. Reef shoes are a must on this island, there are hardly any sandy beaches and the entire island is ringed by a coral reef which can be home to some nasty little (poisonous) creatures such as sea urchins and stonefish. Tramping through tropical rainforest before a walking/balancing act through the outer ring of fossilized coral can be a dangerous one. Bring your hiking boots on this tropical island escape and I guarantee you will thank me!
5. There is still a place in the world where you can be completely alone
The total population of Niue is currently 1,586 people and tourists only amount to around 7,000 per year. If you are looking for a place that others haven’t even heard of, a place that is not full of tourists tramping all the popular trails or just a place where you can be completely alone then Niue is the place for you. Often when exploring this forgotten island, I found myself to be the only person on the hiking trails, the only person on the beach and the only person witnessing the grandeur of Talava Arches. It is such a surreal experience to witness such amazing things on this island and feel like there could very well be no one else left on the earth.
4. You don’t always need a boat
Niue, as with most Pacific islands, have a fisheries department to control and regulate the fishing activity in their waters and to maintain the FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) surrounding the island. The difference with this fisheries department is that they don’t have a boat. People have told me that they did have a vessel once upon a time but it fell into such disrepair due to the lack of availability for required materials that they just gave up on the whole idea! Niue is also home to the biggest little yacht club in the world, where the database of members outnumbers the entire population of the island. Strange you think? Well what’s even stranger is that Niue does not have anyone on the island who actually owns a yacht, so the club is purely in place to serve cold beers to visitors and locals alike, and to welcome the international vessels that pass through.
3. The coconut wireless is alive and kicking
If there is something you need to know on a small island, all you have to do is ask around… The coconut wireless will provide you with all of the information you need, plus a little gossip to boot! It is common in such a small place that news gets around and Niuean population are more than willing participants with news travelling from village to village in mere hours! In a recent visit to Niue with a fishing group one guy experienced the devastation of dropping a near-150kg fish only 20m from the boat. Returning to shore with his head hung in shame was not the only event that ensued… By the time dinner rolled around and we walked into our chosen restaurant, we were greeted with the question “you were the guys that dropped that fish today, aye”? News might get around in small places all over the world but nothing escapes the coconut wireless!
2. Snakes are not as scary as one might think
One of the most incredible features of Niue is the sheer volume of life in the waters surrounding the island. Whether snorkeling or scuba diving, you are sure to see at least one – if not 21 – sea snakes gliding majestically through the water. As an Australian, I have been born and bred to know that snakes are dangerous and although Sea Snakes are highly poisonous if they do bite you, they are placid creatures who seem more than happy to go about their business as long as you don’t disturb them. There has not been any incidents recorded of Sea Snake bites in all of Niue’s history, which is a small comfort when you are mid-dive and you are literally surrounded by numerous snakes gliding gracefully to the surface. Make some time to visit Niue Dive Centre and either dive or snorkel at one of their most famous diving and snorkeling sites, called Snake Gully.
1. That you have to go there at least once in your life
A visit to Niue will not disappoint. This island offers experiences that cannot be had in other places in the Pacific, or around the world. This is a place where time goes by slowly, friends are made quickly and the memories will remain with you for many years to come. If you are looking for your next out of the way destination and are keen to experience a place that so few other people have ever seen, then Niue should be high up on your list.
Photo credits: Jay Austin
This article was written during a research journey to Niue which was proudly supported by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation and the Niue Tourism Association, in conjunction with Fishing Getaways.