We arrived in Niue thursday, july 6th early in the afternoon. From a distance at sea, it looks like a dark and foreboding place. Unlike other coral islands, Nieu rises up from the sea as a black massive rock, hence it’s nickname ‘Polynesian rock’.
We took a mooring and radioed the Niue Yacht Club for customs and immigration. Stefan was picked up about an hour later at the dock and another hour later we were checked in.
We immediately went ashore although this involves some work. You cannot just leave your dinghy at the dock because of the waves pounding against the unprotected harbor wall. This could cause damage if you would leave it there for some time. So Niue has engineered a system where the dinghy is hoisted out of the water by a crane to which you can attach to your boat. The 8 days we were in Niue this worked great although on some days it took some acrobatics to get in and out of the boat because of the large waves.
We were immediately charmed by the island. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant, good food for a small price. The Indian had wanted to immigrate into New Zealand but ended up in Niue and liked it so much that they decided to stay.
It took Captain Cook in 1774 three tries to get on land in Niue. He was not welcomed by the natives who all had painted faces and red teeth and he therefore called it “Savage island” which stuck for centuries until it reverted to Niue. He was able though to plant the flag and claim “Savage Island” for the Queen.
Niue (which means “behold the coconut”) is made up of limestone with cliffs rising up 30m from the sea. It is the largest raised coral island in the world. Niue was once ruled by kings but it became part of New Zealand in 1901. NZ is responsible for foreign affairs, defense and the necessary economic and administrative assistance. Just when we arrived the departure tax had gone up from 34NZD per person to 80NZD. This fee has to be paid by every person leaving Niue. Niueans are not happy with this increase imposed by NZ and fear that it will impact tourism. The future will tell.
Niue suffered a devastating blow in January 2004 by Cyclone Heta. Winds of up to 300km per hour damaged 90% of the buildings. The hospital was completely blown away… The population before Heta was about 2500 but declined to as low as 1100 and is now, 13 years later, 1900 souls. Niue tries hard to get its expatriates back, mostly from NZ and Australia.
Niuean is the official language but most people also speak english, their second language. Besides fishing and agriculture, tourism is one of the main economic pillars of Niue. Niue is famous for its limestone caves and many chasms, crystal clear seawater (up to 50m visibility) and diving. We tried to do all ….
After one full week in Niue the winds changed and made the anchorage very rolly. Time to leave for Tonga. We dropped our mooring Friday July 14 after checking out and paying our departure tax. We really enjoyed the friendly people of Niue and its beautiful caves and chasms.