"Niue" Places to Explore

Shallow lagoon waters of Beveridge Reef
Lobster anyone?
After bouncing around in the fetch of Beveridge Reef where Mark speared a massive lobster, getting to Niue and its calm mooring field was just what the doctor ordered.  We radioed to Niue Radio on VHF channel 16, and talked to Ira at the Niue Yacht Club to ask about the check-in procedures. 


To get up onto shore was quite a feat!  Unlike anyplace we’d docked the dinghy before, the high concrete wharf required us to lift our dinghy out of the water each time we went ashore!  A line from the front and back of the dinghy would serve as a bridle to haul the dinghy up, using a huge remote controlled crane.  Then, we had to swing the dinghy in mid air over a steel cart and wheel the cart over to one of the designated dinghy parking spots!  It was quite the process but quickly became old hat.

Dinghy Lift
Commodore Keith came and picked us all up in his van and drove us to the offices where we needed to check in.  While we waited for the guys to do the paperwork, Keith took us for a quick tour of the Niue prison, a rugged cement building with iron bar doors without locks.  Keith told us that Niue doesn’t really have any crime, but when there is the odd inmate imprisoned, the night guards don’t want to have to be bothered.  So, the cells are left unlocked, and if nature calls, the prisoner can reach his hand through the bars, open the door, take care of business, then shut himself back into his cell.  This was an intriguing place, indeed!  Over the next seven days, we’d discover more of what makes Niue unique. 

Enjoying pools where royalty were brought to swim long ago
The island is an uplifted coral atoll, creating beautiful caverns, lagoons and landscapes.  In 2004, it was hit by a storm that produced 22-meter waves!  Can you imagine?  The cliffs that tower over the harbor were flooded with water, and many of the properties lining the cliffs were demolished – including the former yacht club.  After that, many people moved away.  In fact, there are currently 22,000 Niuens who live in New Zealand, and only 1,500 living on the island.  It is highly subsidized by NZ, although it is officially an independent country.  Niue is actually the smallest democracy in the world, with a parliamentary party consisting of 22 elected members.

Geronimo!  Michael found the best Niue leaping spots!
Local woman showed us how to find and harvest snails in the exposed reef
Niue seems to have everything people would need.  Hydro-farming is allowing them to grow more produce, and the island sits atop a caldera that acts as an aquifer.  It holds more than enough rainwater to supply everyone with surplus.  Commodore Keith also told us of a honey farm, one of the few in the world whose hives have not been infested with the devastating mites that are capable of wiping out entire colonies.  He chuckled as he said, “Who knows, Niuean honey might just save the world someday!”

On Friday, we rented a van with friends from SV Moxie in order to tour the many natural beauties found on the island of Niue. 

The Limu Pools were our favorite stop.  Clear, shallow pools were set between coral walls.  We could swim though underwater tunnels to visit connected pools.  The water was a mix of salt and fresh, causing areas of blurriness underwater.  I found myself blinking repeatedly to try to get my eyes to focus.  Michael took a brave leap off of one of the coral cliffs down into the crystal waters below, and relished the applause as he popped up to the surface.

Practicing to be a cliff diver at Casa Bonita!




The Avaiki Caves are seaside caves that we entered by walking over the reef at low tide.  The view was stunning – crystal waters peppered with bright tropical fish and fossils of seashells in the cave walls that curved above. 
Beautiful contrast of serene blue water and rugged coral walls above


Fascinating creatures found in the reefs below
The Talava Arches had more seaside caves, but with taller ceilings and arches that opened to the sea.  Within the caves, we found various mineral formations – stalagtites, stalagmites, columns, ribbon, and popcorn.


Learning all about caves!
Fossilized shell imprint


Just 'a swinging!
The Vaikona Chasm was the most challenging of the expeditions, but it was also the most interesting.  The 45-minute hike to the cave took us over a floor of sharp, uneven coral.  Vines and roots provided necessary handholds over the harsh terrain.  It looked like we had entered the set of Star Wars, and Yoda would be popping his head out from behind a rock any time.  To distract Elizabeth and push her forward, I wove a tale of a time Mark and I were commissioned to explore life on a planet that looked very similar to this.  She was so enthralled by my imagined creatures and experiences that she didn’t remember how exhausted and miserable she was!  Once at the mouth of the cave, I peered down into a black hole and decided I’d had enough adventure for the day.  Mark and Michael scampered down the opening with headlamps on, but wide crevices and treacherous climbing kept them from reaching the pools that were far below.  Friends who made it all the way said it was amazing, but I’ll just have to take their word for it!


My spelunkers!
Transversing the sharp, coral terrain
On the way home, we found the Israel Mart that had advertised homemade ice cream.  So everyone piled out of the van to enjoy a cool treat.  The kids got Gooey Gumdrop, a favorite flavor, we learned, for kids in NZ.  Something else to look forward to finding in NZ!

The next morning, we heard someone announce a whale sighting on the VHF.  Mark, the kids, and I scrambled out onto the back steps to watch humpback whales breeching and playing in the distance.  The first of many humpback sightings in the South Pacific!


Fluke and Fin!
The winds began to look promising for our next passage, so we said goodbye to the Biggest Little Yacht Club in the world, untied our mooring lines, and set off for The Kingdom of Tonga.    



Comments

  1. Truly fascinating and beautiful! Kudos to the teacher in you Sarah, the bravery of Michael leaping, the explorer in Elizabeth and Mark's lobster catching. Wow to all!

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  2. great blog !
    really enjoyed the videos - crossing the south pacific, field trip factory tour, big splash
    meeting mark and sarah on the beach a couple weeks ago on uoleva island, tonga was a highlight of my trip
    then seeing the kids swinging on the deck ropes the next day was a blast - they weren't having any fun at all - ha!
    thanks
    john anderson, missoula, mt

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  3. John, it was a pleasure to happen upon you at Uoleva beach! Still wish we had you on board as our resident history teacher! Hope you had a wonderful time kayaking around the Haapai Group. Perhaps we'll meet on a beach somewhere again someday...

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