Alofi, Niue

Photo: fearlessRich [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: fearlessRich [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Niue. This small island is one of the most connected places on the planet. More so than South Korea, Taiwan, and definitely the United States. It was the first country to offer free Wi-Fi to everyone, and each kid receives a laptop when they start school. So how can we know so little about a place that has access to so much? It’s time to get to know Niue.

This South Pacific island is located near—near being a relative term in the vast South Pacific—Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands. It’s known as “the Rock,” since it’s made of coral and features steep limestone cliffs. Captain James Cook attempted to land here in 1774. After being denied three times by the Polynesian islanders, he named it Savage Island and left. Missionaries eventually arrived in the 1800s. The British followed. Niue remained under British control until 1974, when it became an independent nation in free association with New Zealand.

All flights to Niue arrive from Auckland, New Zealand. The island is ringed by a vibrant coral reef and crystal-clear water. Small waves break on the reef just offshore. A dense, tropical rainforest covers much of the interior. The lush, green plants and trees thrive in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil. In between are caves, chasms, beaches, and lookout points. And many of them have yet to find their way into guidebooks.

Photo: Niue Tourism
Photo: Niue Tourism

Start with the caves and the chasms. The extensive network along the coast has been used for everything from protection to storage to burial grounds. Vaikona Chasm is the largest and the most difficult to reach. After hiking through the forest, where you see hundreds of colorful mushrooms, you reach a maze of coral pinnacles. The steep trail is lined with sharp, coral rocks and coral tunnels. Keep going down until you reach a freshwater pool on the chasm floor. It’s surrounded by green ferns, and, when you look up, you see just a little sliver of the blue sky.

Avaiki Cave is easier to access. It’s a short walk through a narrow gorge to the coastal cavern that’s full of stalagmites, stalactites, and a rock pool. Bring your snorkel gear to see butterflyfish, brown tangs, and colorful coral. Or climb over a rocky trail to visit the chain of caves around the Talava Arches. The rock archways get pounded by waves at high tide, but at low tide, you can find hermit crabs in the shallow pools.

To do more snorkeling, head to the Limu Pools. The area is protected by more rocks, so there’s calm water and lots of crevasses in which sea creatures can hide. Schools of triggerfish dart by, a moray eel peeks his head out between two rocks, and a striped water snake slithers between the brain coral. Then, when you’re finally ready to relax, find Hio Beach, one of the few sandy bays on Niue. It’s bordered by rocky cliffs, and when the tide is low, you might find a sea cucumber in the shallow water.

At the end of the day, you end up in Alofi, the small capital. The wharf is the center of town, the people are friendly, and the few restaurants that are open serve seafood. Grab takeout and walk up to Tomb Point for 180-degree views and the perfect spot to watch the sun set. You finally understand what the Niuean people already know: just because you can be connected all the time doesn’t mean you need to be.

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