<This is the first in a series of three posts covering our stay in the island nation of Niue, in the South Pacific. Click here to access the next post in the series>
Niue was the second – and last – stop in our 1,200 mile transit between Tahiti and Neiafu. More than just a stopover, it was expected to be a highlight of this year’s cruising season for us. Normally I am very weary about Expectations. Ours were pretty high of Niue. And we weren’t disappointed AT ALL.
Cruisers rave about Niue. Most of our friends who came this way last year also raved about it. We really wanted to visit !
Niue is a small, tiny island-nation. A limestone rock formation that emerges almost vertically from the ocean’s bottom, 5,000 meters below, and then tops off no more than 60 meters above sea-level. There are no beaches, no coral reef lagoon surrounding it, no lush mountains, and the only available anchorage is an open roadstead in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.
And yet, it is enchanting !
To start with, its people are the friendliest we have ever met. And I really mean EVER. One day we stopped at a house to ask for information and its residents invited us in, served us with soft drinks and baked potatoes, and then took us in their car to find what we were looking for.
Then, what the island’s coast lacks in the form of beaches, is compensated by its many chasms. Indentations along the limestone coast featuring different attractions – from caves to salt and fresh water ponds – most of which are well accessible to be explored and enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
And then, there is the ocean. Precisely because it is a roadstead, the water in the harbor is as clear as it gets. Pesto was moored on 100ft deep waters, and we could still see all features of the bottom from our deck.
As soon as we arrived, we were fascinated by the place, and went fully into enjoyment mode. The day of arrival we spent the morning clearing-in into the country, and in the afternoon we rented a car. The second day we used the car to visit a few chasms, driving along the northern side of the island. Our plans were building for the upcoming days – including more chasms on the southern side, a dance-fair at a nearby village, and maybe even a scuba dive in those incredibly clear waters. However, a casual conversation with other cruisers during lunch that day (the Second) reminded me of the need to monitor the weather constantly.
Indeed, since everything looked fine around us, I ceased downloading weather info for those 48 hours, not realizing that something was brewing over Australia’s desert. A strong weather system that would travel across the western Pacific Ocean, bringing Westerly Winds to Niue early the following week. The anchorage is fully exposed to the West, and we were not keen on taking chances. In order to avoid bad weather, we would have to depart Niue the following day – what would have been our Third there – so that we could reach safe harbor in the Kingdon of Tonga before the weather reached there. Decision made.
So, instead of visiting around, as we had wished and planned for, our third day in Niue was spent mostly preparing for the passage: returning the car, a few last-minute groceries, and clearing-out of the country. We did, however, set aside time to snorkell around Pesto, and take advantage of those waters. And it was AWESOME. Indeed, the most transparent water we had ever been in. And we are quite spoilt on that matter already ! It was simply fascinating to see the kids do their evolutions in that ethereal matter – it looked as though they were flying.
And then, crowning our experience in Niue, we swam to a place were Sea Snakes started to show up around us. We had seen them on arrival, and even though slightly frightened, we really wanted to swim close to these animals – their brilliant, black-and white 1-meter bodies swirling and shinning with the sunlight under those crystalline waters. It was only afterwards that we learned these are among the world’s most poisonous animals ….
And so ended our stay in Niue. We’d waited over a month in Tahiti for the right weather. Then again another 18 days in Rarotonga. And then Weather only allowed us two and a half days there. But our stay was great. Blissful. And, in retrospect, I’m glad we weren’t aware of the incoming bad weather during our first two days, otherwise our enjoyment might have been tainted with anxiety. Likewise, it was better to know of the beautiful snakes’ venomous potential after we had enjoyed their beauty.
As short as it was, it was a pleasant-most time, and now we also rave about Niue !