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[Datasheet] Niue (South Pacific)
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Quaestum Offline
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[Datasheet] Niue (South Pacific)
I know some guys here appreciate information on exotic destinations, so I figured I might as well write a little datasheet about the week I spent on Niue a while ago.

TL;DR version:

Go to Niue to see an unusual, remote limestone island nation and enjoy its nature and friendly inhabitants – either solo or with your LTR, but don’t expect to be able to pull any locals. This, if at all, will be much easier and cheaper in Australia or NZ. For tourists, probably 99 % of the world’s countries are better for this.

Long version:

Where and how to get there

Niue is a tiny island nation in the South Pacific and a 3 ½ hours flight from Auckland, New Zealand. Air New Zealand is the only airline flying there, twice a week. Nobody needs a visa, but non-Niuean visitors can only stay for up to a month.

Return ticket prices range from NZ$200 [~ US$146] on very few dates when Air NZ’s Pacific Island sale is on, up to NZ$1000 [~ US$733] on Niue’s public holidays as Niueans living overseas return home for a brief period. Most times the price hovers around NZ$700 [~ US$513].

The only other way to get there is with your own or someone else’s yacht.

The island

Niue is a lifted coral atoll (actually one of the world’s largest at ~270 square km) which makes for quite an extraordinary landscape: It’s essentially one big limestone rock with mostly rainforest/jungle on it, surrounded by rugged cliffs. There’s an abundance of caves, chasms, cliffs and other natural sights to be seen. Search the net for “Tavala Arches” or “Togo Chasm” to get an idea.

That said, there are no real beaches on Niue, which means it’s not your average South Pacific holiday destination. Annual visitor numbers reached the five digits for the first time in 2015, but this includes returning Niueans, so actual foreigner numbers are, not surprisingly, low.

As there are no moving waters on Niue, water clarity is one of the best in the world with up to 200 metres underwater vision. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whales during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter/spring season.

It’s not very convenient to get around without a car – public transport doesn’t exist. Except for the main settlement Alofi, the island’s roads are ridden with potholes, so I was able to hone my evading skills. Driving around the whole island takes little over an hour; speed limits are 40 km/h in villages and 60 km/h on the “open road”. One needs to obtain a local driver’s license (upon presenting the one of your home country) but in fact, nobody will ever stop you to check.

Niue uses the NZ$; there are no ATMs, but apparently you can get a cash advance at the only bank and some shops.

Weather

Tropical, temperatures vary between 27 °C in winter and 32 °C in summer – it’s very humid in summer.

Accommodation

There’s only one (expensive) resort, the Matavai, which would be the only real option for somebody looking to game as many of its rooms can be accessed without passing anybody. Pretty much every other accommodation are shared guesthouses owned by locals, which are quite dear given the basic facilities. Me and my LTR were pretty happy though, I don’t need much comfort and our local host was a cool dude.

Food

The food selection pales even in comparison to other Pacific Islands – almost everything is imported from New Zealand, and it's all processed (canned food, cookies, you get the idea).

When I was there, interestingly your best bet for local fruit was the only petrol station on the island. Local fruit is pretty much confined to papaya and coconut – passion fruit can be found but is very sour. One day the petrol station also sold starfruit, I don’t know whether it was locally grown. Otherwise you got the usual starchy vegetables found in the Pacific: Taro and cassava (arrowroot).

The best advice is to bring food from Australia/New Zealand if travelling with a checked bag.

The locals

Niue’s population has been declining for about 50 years and stands now at ~1200 people; there’s more than ten times as many Niueans living in New Zealand (mostly South Auckland) and Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth). People are very friendly, and everybody knows everybody – unavoidable in such a small place. Niueans are Polynesian and genetically related to Tongans and Samoans if I remember correctly.

Unlike most other Pacific Islands, overweight is comparatively less of an issue on Niue – I encountered many islanders, notably girls, who were slim. This can probably be explained by the poor soil on Niue which doesn’t allow growing a lot, which leads people to consume not nearly as much carbohydrates as on the other islands. Also, while the overpriced, processed food is usually available in the few shops, many locals seem to eat a lot of self-caught fish and other seafood.

The girls

I noticed quite a few cute local girls during my stay. Most of them seem to work in the few cafes and restaurants around Alofi, or for the Tourism Office. Gaming would be difficult as the society is very conservative (devout Christians), everybody knows each other, and all the girls live with big families in their homes that were owned by them for generations – on the other hand I did meet a few Westerners that have relationships with local women, usually they are 35+ and married though. I imagine it’s way better to search for them in Australia/NZ, that poses the challenge of getting access to tight-knit Islander communities…rather difficult for foreigners.

Due to free WiFi on the whole island and the locals having NZ passports, they are fairly westernised and I could imagine it’s possible to hook up in one of the local bars (there are no nightclubs). The one night I ventured out, all the bars were closed so I don’t know how fruitful this would be. All existing venues can be found on the official website of Niue Tourism.

Don’t bother with looking for tourists, there are very few solo travellers and it's the ones that look for destinations off the beaten track. Otherwise it’s mainly couples looking for a different getaway. I met a lot of Kiwis and a few Europeans; Americans are nowhere to be found and even Australians and Asians are a rare sight despite the relative proximity.

This is one of the prettier Niuean girls I’ve seen on my trip.

What to do

Snorkelling and diving – I did quite a bit of snorkelling. The underwater life cannot compete with other Pacific Islands, but the clarity is stunning and it’s good enough if you’re just a casual snorkeler like me. I’ve seen sea snakes, a huge school of fish, manta rays, spinner dolphins and sharks. Diving is probably much better but expensive.

Exploring the island – As mentioned above, there’s a lot of stunning caves, reef pools (at low tide) and chasms to be discovered, some of them look out of this world. Many are listed in the brochure that’s handed out on arrival, but there’s a good chunk that you can discover by yourself.

The most intriguing spot on the island is probably Vaikona Chasm on the western coast, but the descent once you reach the chasm is difficult and dangerous. The Tourist Info won’t even let you go there without a local guide, although nobody will stop you if you do go alone. The glimpse I got of the chasm’s interor looked like something straight out of an adventure movie set in South America…I might go back one day to tackle the entrance.

Coconut crab hunting – The coconut crab, endangered in many places around the world, has a fairly healthy population on Niue. We went out with a local to catch one, a big motherfucker almost the size of a car tyre; very tasty!

Participating in local life and events – The locals have touch (a variant of rugby) games going on, sporting events and other stuff: Visitors are mostly welcome to join in.

Fishing charters & golfing – For the more affluent among you.

Bottom line

Me and my girl spend most of the time going to all the caves etc, swimming in pools and snorkelling. We had a great time and I think of Niue as a bit of a hidden gem – the coastal landscapes in conjunction with the weather alone are worth it. Go if you want to see a remote, beautiful corner of our planet that not many people get to – unless your goal is solely to game.
07-01-2017 12:08 AM
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