Want to escape the grey-green, wet, windy winter of Aotearoa? Why not take a short Air New Zealand flight (only 3 hours, leaving Auckland at 9.15am each Saturday morning) to ‘’The Rock’’ – Niue Island – in the South West Pacific.
Charmaine and Tanya of Earthtalk@awhitu share their recent journey with Women Travel
A rugged, forested raised coral atoll, Niue is surrounded by deep, and absolutely clear, blue-and turquoise water, with abundant fish life, spinner dolphins, and humpback whales calving between June and November. The reef – which is a narrow band around the island, stretching out from the base of the 20-metre rocky cliffs – is colourful with coral and tropical fish. You can access the coast on labelled sea tracks from the road around the island, some of which lead to sandy coves, swimming and snorkelling pools via concrete paths and steps.
The island is still recovering from Cyclone Heta in 2004, when 30 metre waves destroyed many buildings and wiped out the vegetation on its western coast. But the bush has regrown, cottages are renovated, and the resilient residents are striving to develop sustainable and organic land management practices, with energy conservation and recycling, as well as caring for eco-tourists. One of the island’s attractions is the range of colourful village signs exhorting locals and visitors to care for the environment!
There are only around 1100 Niueans living on the island (and about 18,000 in New Zealand), but their warmth and helpfulness is outstanding. We stayed in comfort at Matavai – a cliff-top resort with restaurant and swimming pools – and there is a range of accommodation available to suit different needs and budgets, including an excellent backpackers in Alofi, the island’s township. At present there are only around a hundred beds available on the island, but more are being developed in response to growing eco-tourism. You can hire bicycles, motorbikes or cars, and the island is easily negotiated (just watch for deep potholes in places!). There are several cafes and restaurants, and they sensibly schedule their special island buffet entertainments to prevent clashes.
We had several stunning experiences, including:
- An orientation tour with Sue and Keith Vial, palagi ex-teachers from New Zealand and now resident on the island, sussing out the best snorkelling and swimming spots
- A Sunday service with powerful multi-harmony singing from the congregation at Alatele Ekelesia, women all in white…
- A morning walk deep into the tropical forest with elder Jack Peleti, who shared his spiritual, ecological and historical knowledge of an area that is his refuge and replenishment
- An early morning boat trip with Niue Dive, including swimming with the Spinner Dolphins, a close encounter with two humpback whales, and snorkelling with reef fish and sea snakes over colourful coral
Some of our most enduring memories, however, come from informal interactions with the women of Niue.
- The warm, generous and knowledgeable Marie and her staff at Matavai – Niuean, Tuvaluan, Fijian…
- The old ladies serving coconut and arrowroot porridge, pork buns and papaya, at the early morning market in Alofi…
- Annie, the owner of Niue Dive, and Diamond the librarian, who lent us their own precious books (much of the island’s library was destroyed in Cyclone Heta)…
- Vanessa and Moka at the Niue Tourism Office in Alofi – beautiful charming and highly professional women
- Jen, a Phillipino, who, with her sister, made fine coffee and coconut muffins daily at the Crazy Uga Cafe in Alofi…
- Ahitautama Makaea-Cross, a world-renowned weaver, who runs Tahiono Gallery in Alofi, and gave Tanya a wondeful massage blending knowledge from Niue, Sweden, Japan and China…
- Chrisbina (cousin of Moka, Tanya’s Niuean masseuse in Waiuku) who took us to her family’s talo and banana plantations around the village of Lakepa, and then to dinner, and discussions around the table, at home with her husband and children…
- And then at Matavai we were befriended by Lita, a
Niuean woman bringing her children back from New Zealand to explore their Niuean roots for the first time; she shared with us parcels of traditional food from her village family’s umu,
We felt totally enveloped by the warmth, gentleness and generosity of the Niuean way of life. One week was not long enough – there are many more activities to enjoy and places to explore – we will return!
Watch out for fares as low as $497 return from Air New Zealand, or package deals with Matavai accommodation
See also www.niueisland.com
YAY just booked to visit Niue in August!!!