In August 2016 we spent 10 days in Niue, a tiny island in the South Pacific near Tonga and Samoa. It’s 2400km north east of New Zealand — about a 3.5 hour flight from Auckland.
At 260 square kilometres it’s a tiny island nation, hard to spot on maps. If you zoom out enough to see context you lose the island. Zoom in enough to see the island and you lose sight of any other country.
Niue is sometimes called
Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. The terrain consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 60 metres above sea level. A coral reef surrounds the island, with the only major break in the reef being in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi. A notable feature is the number of limestone caves found close to the coast.
The terrain is rough, and there is little agriculture. There are no streams or rivers, though rainwater filters through the porous rock to collect in a
lens below the island. No rivers means no run-off, so no beaches to speak of and exceptionally clear seas.
From our accommodation we could look some 30 metres down the cliff to the reef below and watch fish, like the large blue one in the photo here. Though ripples on the water make a sharp shot impossible, still the water itself is clear.
beach shot from the same location at Oki Oki Mai cafe near Avatele (closed when we visited), where it’s more obviously reef.
The island has a resident population of around 1,500 and has close ties with New Zealand. At least 22,000 Niueans live in New Zealand (Census 2006) and thousands more live in Australia and other parts of the world. All over the island are houses abandoned because people have left the country or because of cyclone damage.
You’d think maybe it would be a sad little country, in decline and impoverished, but what we found was a clean, cheerful place where people took pride in themselves and their environment. In fact, we enjoyed Niue so much we’re already thinking of a return trip next year.
I came to the conclusion actually, that, far from the hard rock it appears to be, Niue is a sort of gentler version of New Zealand. I’m looking forward to writing more about our visit to explain why I reached that conclusion.
This is the first post of several about our trip to Niue. Find all these posts under the tag: Niue.