Niue a wed­ding ad­ven­ture to the Rock of Poly­ne­sia

Wedding Destinations - - NIUE FEATURE -

Niue is also a place where vis­i­tors can get as close as 50 me­tres to hump­back whales - with­out get­ting wet. It’s easy to spend all day watch­ing them from any­where along Niue’s west­ern coast, but guests at the Matavai Re­sort get a grand­stand view.

Niue, known as the “Rock of Poly­ne­sia,” is a place for those who want to es­cape to an is­land of dra­matic land­scape and raw beauty - and as a wed­ding des­ti­na­tion Niue is about to step onto the map.

With Niue’s leg­endary hos­pi­tal­ity, the wed­ding party will be em­braced into its tiny pop­u­la­tion. The first na­tion in the world to pro­vide free wi-fi in­ter­net ac­cess across the coun­try - so there’s no need to feel cut off from civil­i­sa­tion on this is­land.

There’s plenty to do if the bride and groom and their guests want to fill their wed­ding hol­i­day with ac­tion. Or there’s plenty to “not do” if they are look­ing to re­lax peace­fully while spend­ing time to­gether.

Niue’s ap­peal lies not only with its Pa­cific is­land beauty, but also in what it does not have. There are no typ­i­cal sandy beaches on the is­land, but there are many tiny, in­ti­mate coves where vis­i­tors can swim and sun­bathe in to­tal pri­vacy. Crowds are un­known. Only around 1500 peo­ple now live on Niue (with around 30,000 in New Zealand and 4,000 in Aus­tralia) so vis­i­tors are not go­ing to be caught in a traf­fic jam. Trans­port is by hire car, bi­cy­cle, mo­tor­bike by or stick­ing out the thumb.

Fresh food in Niue is plen­ti­ful. The mar­ket is the fo­cal point for lo­cal pro­duce sales. The Tues­day and Fri­day mar­ket starts at around 5-9am sell­ing lo­cal grown pro­duce, hand­crafts, lo­cal food del­i­ca­cies, leis (flower gar­lands) and the bright blue co­conut crabs known as uga, both now rare on other Pa­cific Is­lands. Niue has a num­ber of cafes and also sev­eral li­censed restau­rants where, if there is an “is­land buf­fet night,” tra­di­tional dishes fea­ture on the menu such as co­conut crab, ota, or mar­i­nated fish in co­conut cream, taro and yams cooked in an umu, or earth oven - as well as other lo­cal seafood del­i­ca­cies found in Niue.

Niue is blessed ev­ery year be­tween June and Septem­ber with vis­its from mi­grat­ing hump­back whales. Tak­ing a break on their long jour­ney, they come to Niue to rest, play, mate and give birth. Hump­back whales mi­grate 5000km from their feed­ing grounds to calve and mate in trop­i­cal wa­ters dur­ing win­ter months.

Dur­ing the months of the hump­back mi­gra­tion it is com­mon to see the whales from the shore as they frolic in the crys­tal clear, warm wa­ters of Niue. The whales show all forms of their be­hav­iour, from breach­ing, fluke up dives, head lunges, pec­toral slaps and tail lob­bing to swim­ming along se­dately. Fe­males also give birth in the calm bays of Niue and a typ­i­cal calf can weigh up to one tonne and be three to four me­tres long.

Niue Dive and li­cenced op­er­a­tors of­fer whale in­ter­ac­tions and dol­phin trips, one of the few places in the world where this is al­lowed. Fol­low­ing strict guide­lines from ex­pe­ri­enced guides/ op­er­a­tors, snorkellers form a line in the water to watch the whales, en­sur­ing they never split into smaller groups, or come be­tween the mother and calf. If the whales are not in the mood they will move se­dately away.

Niue is also a place where vis­i­tors can get as close as 50 me­tres to hump­back whales - with­out get­ting wet. It’s easy to spend all day watch­ing them from any­where along Niue’s west­ern coast, but guests at the Matavai Re­sort get a grand­stand view. Nes­tled into bush on a cliff edge, Matavai‘s tiered decks over­look the whales’ pre­ferred bay. The lo­ca­tion pro­vides the most mes­meris­ing whale watch­ing plat­form imag­in­able and with newly in­stalled view­ing binoc­u­lars from cer­tain look out points, view­ing is even bet­ter.

The na­tional wa­ters of Niue have also been de­clared a whale sanc­tu­ary and the non-government or­gan­i­sa­tion, “Oma Ta­fua” mean­ing “to trea­sure whales” is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion, con­ser­va­tion and ed­u­ca­tion of marine mam­mals and works to­gether with Whales Alive & Niue Fish­eries Di­vi­sion.

Ex­plor­ing Niue‘s coast un­der water is a treat, with its vis­i­bil­ity of up to 65 me­tres be­ing among the best in the world, an­other gift of the is­land‘s unique ge­ol­ogy. A wide va­ri­ety of marine life, in­clud­ing tur­tles, dol­phins, Niue’s fa­mous sea snakes, hard corals and cav­erns pro­vide mem­o­rable div­ing.

For sea an­glers, there are well-equipped fish­ing char­ters. The beauty of the fish­ing is that with such deep water so close to land, no trav­el­ling time is wasted, and a great ar­ray of marine vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing sail­fish, mar­lin, yel­lowfin tuna, mahi mahi, wa­hoo, bar­racuda. Gi­ant trevally are the tar­geted species and caught just off­shore.

A visit to Togo Chasm, near Niue’s south-east­ern coast, has spe­cial ap­peal. A 30-minute drive from Aolfi, Togo’s pin­na­cled and lat­ticed lime­stone walls to­tally en­close a beau­ti­ful patch of white sand. The path to the chasm re­quires care but it is clear and stepped and the sand is ac­cessed down a 25-me­tre lad­der.

Although Niue lacks the spec­tac­u­lar peaks of a high vol­canic is­land, be­cause it is an av­er­age of 30 me­tres above the sea, there are panoramic views of the Pa­cific al­most all the way along the en­cir­cling road. The road is a good one, well sur­faced and gen­tly un­du­lat­ing as it passes through the lush veg­e­ta­tion fol­low­ing the is­land’s perime­ter, which was once the rim of the former atoll. The road passes through Niue’s 14 vil­lages, each with its dis­tinc­tive green, churches and plan­ta­tion land. Alofi, the main vil­lage, has one bank, no traf­fic lights and few street­lights.

Above ground, more than 20 per­cent of Niue is dense, pri­mary rain­for­est, most ly­ing within the Hu­valu Con­ser­va­tion Area in the south-east­ern area of the is­land. The cen­tre of the is­land is cov­ered in bush, but even here the old co­ral pro­trudes like har­rows through the veg­e­ta­tion of farmed plots of land. All around the is­land, where the rim dips or plunges to the sea, Niue’s land­forms are a won­der. The rain­fall that soaks into the land per­me­ates the co­ral rock, form­ing a lens-like layer of fresh water me­tres un­der­ground. Around the edges of the is­land, at sea level, the water leaks out, some­times force­fully, erod­ing the land­scape and sculpt­ing the rock into a karst land­scape.

The orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of Niue came from Tonga to the west, Samoa to the east and a smaller mi­gra­tion from the North­ern Cook Is­lands. When Cap­tain James Cook first sighted Niue in 1774 he tried to land. Ni­uean warriors vig­or­ously re­pulsed him and his men, so Cook named it Sav­age Is­land. Ni­ueans are ac­tu­ally some of the friendli­est peo­ple in the Pa­cific, and are ut­terly ap­proach­able - vis­it­ing is like be­ing wel­comed into a large fam­ily. Their greet­ing, “fakaalofa lahi atu” is heard of­ten. To­day Niue is free-gov­ern­ing, in as­so­ci­a­tion with New Zealand, so its peo­ple have New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship with free right of en­try.

The cli­mate is trop­i­cal, mod­i­fied by south-east­erly trade winds. There is a long dry sea­son from April to Novem­ber when the tem­per­a­ture peaks at around 28 de­grees Cel­sius. From De­cem­ber to March the cli­mate is hot and hu­mid, with max­i­mum tem­per­a­tures of around 30 de­grees Cel­sius.

Al­most ev­ery­one speaks Ni­uean and English and the cur­rency is the New Zealand dol­lar. When you visit Niue you ar­rive as a vis­i­tor and leave as a friend.

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