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Niue: Flock to the Rock

Niue: Flock to the Rock

story by: Paul Rush

Polynesia’s last unspoiled outpost is gearing up for a tourism influx, writes Paul Rush

The secret is out. The “Rock of Polynesia” has come of age and wants to raise its profile on the Pacific tourism scene, but what does Niue Island have to offer the visitor?

Well, imagine a coral atoll where the year round daytime temperature varies from 27C to 30C, where people are friendly, adventure activities are amazing, there’s no air pollution, phone numbers have only four digits and the New Zealand dollar is official currency. Could there even be such a place?

Welcome to Niue — “Fakaalofa lahi atu”. The largest raised coral atoll in the world is also one of the smallest countries on Earth with a mere 1500 inhabitants. The 23,000 others have emigrated to a cooler and larger South Pacific paradise: New Zealand.

It’s not long before I discover the island has a yacht club. Not just any old yacht club but “The biggest little yacht club in the world”. The club has its home in the Niue Backpackers premises. I ask Keith Vial, the Commodore, island tour guide, bon vivant and raconteur, if I can have
a sail. “Well, we’d love to take you out but we don’t actually own any yachts.”

Now I’ve heard of Slim Dusty’s “Pub with no Beer” but a yacht-less yacht club is a turn up for the books. Keith explains that the lack of seagoing craft hasn’t cramped their style one iota and, in fact, they were voted the Top Cruising Station in the world in 2011 by the Seven Seas Cruising Association, such is the quality of the advice and assistance they offer visiting yachties. I join Keith’s Island Orientation Tour and learn more intriguing insights into the “Rock” as the locals call it.

For a start, the island’s minuscule population places it after the Vatican as the second smallest sovereign nation on Earth. Sometimes there are
more humpback whales in its deep blue waters than people on the island. 

We pass the hotel I’m staying at. It’s the four star Matavai Resort, the premier accommodation on the island, which has undergone a $7 million refurbishment and added 20 rooms with superb rainforest and ocean views, and a three-star motel with 15 self-catering rooms.

Niue is starting to cater for a range of new markets with wedding packages through the Matavai Resort, fishing events such as the annual Wahoo Tournament, a spear-fishing competition and touch rugby tournaments. 

Cycling is a popular pastime on Niue and the annual Rally of the Rock draws an international field. The island has provided new facilities including parking, toilets and showers for many of the 45 sea tracks around the coast.

These rainforest trails have a special surprise at the end including moonscapes of jagged coral pinnacles, limestone caves that lead to reef rock pools and swimming holes, secluded sandy coves, and deep chasms that feel like lost worlds.

The most popular sea tracks are the easy access ones like Avaiki, Anapala, Limu, Hio, Matapa and Palaha. However, there’s ample reward in traversing the coral-strewn rainforest trails to reach the remarkable Togo Chasm and the Tavala Arches, a striking feature that Captain James Cook recorded in his ship’s log.

The Crazy Uga Cafe (named after the huge coconut crabs or uga that live on the island) in Alofi is one place you cannot miss on a Niue holiday.They make excellent coffee and tasty fish paninis, and it’s the place where you keep running into friends you’ve met on island excursions. After a few visits you begin to feel like a local.

The people of Niue are making many changes to ensure visitors get value for their money. What hasn’t changed is the genuine friendliness of the people, the fascinating coves, caves and chasms to explore and the world-class fishing and diving. Niue will under-promise and over-deliver every time.

● The writer travelled to Niue courtesy of Tourism Niue and Air New Zealand.


YOUR NIUE


1 On arrival in Niue you will be handed a Visitors Guide at the airport. This is a valuable planning guide. The Visitors Centre in Alofi is open Monday – Saturday.
2 Take NZ currency as some businesses don’t take EFTPOS or credit cards. Niue does not have any ATM machines. Swanson’s Supermarket will extend cash out with a spend of $5 or more.
3 Niue has excellent cafes including the iconic Washaway Café, open from 11am – 11pm on a Sunday. Guests serve their own drinks and savour delicious burgers, fish paninis or pizza.
4 Fishing, diving and snorkelling with the dolphins, whale trips and some of the islands beautiful coves are high on the list for many travellers to Niue.
5 Rent a vehicle. Niue has no public transport (aside from a restaurant shuttle service on selected evenings) Niue is a “place to explore” with over 120 km’s of paved roads, a rental car, scooter or mountain bike is a must.


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