GAIL BEGBIE takes us on an exciting journey to the little known island of Niue and introduces us to the land, the people, the rock pools and the excitement of snorkelling with whales and their newly born calves. I have added Niue to my list of must go to places.
Have you ever heard of the Island of Niue? It only has an area of 269 square kilometers and sits 2,400 km North East of New Zealand but is a self-governing country. The population is today only about 1400 people but the culture is unique and the marine environment rich in bio-diversity. If you are lucky enough or determined enough to visit Niue, on one of its two flights a week from Auckland, it is worth the trip.
The highlight for me was the bluest crystal clear waters that you have ever swam in. The range of blues in the waters almost defy description or at least require a poet or artist to do them justice. The rock pools were a delight and every kids dream but bring sturdy wet shoes for walking the rocks and corals. Bring sunblock too as you too may be spend hours sneaking peeks into the colourful lives of rock pool inhabitants. A good camera goes without saying, an underwater camera will soon become your greatest desire.
Off the deeper waters of the bays spinner dolphins are found, an acrobatic sight from shore or for the adventurist, while being towed along by zodiac. A bit of a challenge for cameras, but with all the horizontal plane spins done by these dolphins you get some wonderful pictures from the boat either way.
The pinnacle of the trip though is to be had during the Humpback Whale migrations, July through to October principally, no guarantees of course. Oh, but if you are lucky, Niue is one of the places Southern Hemisphere Humpbacks females calve and nurse their young. Imagine the opportunity to snorkel with a 11-13m adult at 22-36 metric tons with a new calve 4 – 5m and already 1 ton. The mother will have recently returned from the summer feeding grounds in the rich Antarctic waters where as a baleen whale, she fed on krill, plankton and small fish. A female will feed the calf for a year on milk until the return migration (710,000km return trip in a year) south but the calf will continue to grow until its 10th year.
Snorkeling with Humpbacks is an unforgettable experience and under the sustainable practice principles, Niue being a signatory of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, run very much on the Whales terms. Only the snorkelers are near the whale and they must remain on the surface at all times, so only the whales initiate any closer encounters. Any encounter with a whale of that size is close enough though and the pictures in the clear visibility of Niue’s coastal waters are dramatic. Even if you are not a keen snorkeler the Humpbacks and Spinner dolphins can be seen from the deck of the Matavai Resort maybe even with cocktail in hand. Don’t forget to try some of the wonderful local vanilla products if you ever take up the little known, hidden island isolation that Niue offers.
Pictures and text by Gail Begbie
Gail has provided a web address for readers who would like more information on Niue http://www.traveller.com.au/niue-south-pacific-travel-guide-small-wonder-10k7jh