Jo Joiner tells us why Niue is the new way to enjoy the Pacific Islands.
Until I discovered Niue for myself, I thought of it as a chunk of rock in the Pacific Ocean. The fact that it’s colloquially called ‘The Rock’ didn’t help. In my mind I saw a steep-sided paving stone with precipitous cliffs and toe-tingling rope ladders reaching down to the ocean. Not an ideal holiday environment.
The reality, however, is something very different to this musing. My bloke Murray and I discovered this years too late. We would have liked to have known the truth about Niue 10 years ago, because it would have saved a lot of mucking around in tropical paradises that weren’t the right kind of tropical paradises.
For people who want to do more than laze on a beach beside a pure turquoise lagoon (turquoise only because it’s entirely devoid of coral), Niue is the supreme Pacific adventure playground. Every day there’s a new place to snorkel, a different cave to explore and another sea track to follow. Biking and fishing are big here too. And wherever you roam on the 2,400-square-kilometre island (four times bigger than Rarotonga), people are few and far between. There are only 1,600 permanent residents on the island and about 7,000 visitors every year (actually, maybe I shouldn’t be writing this article… Niue’s emptiness is part of its charm).
There are two main forms of accommodation on Niue — the Matavai, a resort hotel, or a locally-owned holiday cottage. We plumped for the cottage concept, to keep things real, and our coral-rock bach in the jungle came with its own car. Every day we set off with masks, snorkels, hiking shoes and a bunch of snacks to explore another chunk of the island. No two days were alike, because Niue is full of geographical surprises, including the lost world of Togo Chasm and the Waitomo-goes-to-the-beach caves at Talava Arches.
A particularly memorable day involved snorkelling the outside of the reef at Limu Pools (pictured). We swam through the tunnel to beyond the breakers, had a great mosey around, and then realised we couldn’t see how to get back. Happy ending fortunately — just down the coast was a boat ramp, so we drifted with the currents until we could safely make landfall. We slithered up the ramp then stomped back to our car feeling a little stupid, not to mention lucky.
While Niue and fine dining aren’t words that would usually share a sentence, there are some sublime food experiences on the island. There’s a great Japanese restaurant called Kai Ika that thoroughly deserves its 4.5-star Trip Advisor rating. Apart from sushi, tempura and sashimi, it serves a great pizza. We weren’t expecting that. Another excellent meal was found at the Scenic Matavai Resort. The restaurant was worthy of a posh frock and the classic coconut-husking show was fun. Did I mention that Niue means ‘look, a coconut!’?
We’re looking forward to visiting Niue again, this time for longer. It will be the humpback whale season and we’ve booked a cliff’s edge cottage that faces northwest. Sunsets, whales, unlimited ocean views and snorkelling at the end of the sea track. Nothing more to want!
Words: Jo Joiner, Word Joiner