October 14, 2016 – #30 – The Rock

Crystal Clear - Sean & Sarah making the most of Niue's crystal clear water
Crystal Clear – Sean & Sarah making the most of Niue’s crystal clear water

Approaching landfall on the island of Niue, I look up from reading and expectantly scan the horizon. After the towering, cloud-shrouded peaks of Polynesia I expect to see the land reaching up to pierce the sky in a splinter of rocky crags. What I see instead actually makes me laugh out loud. It’s a giant pancake.


Coral Gardens Abound - Everywhere we went the coral was happy & plentiful
Coral Gardens Abound – Everywhere we went the coral was happy & plentiful
Tidal Cave - Incredible snorkeling in this tidal cave
Tidal Cave – Incredible snorkeling in this tidal cave
Drop In - Karen is backlit by the sky as she prepares to drop into this cave pool.
Drop In – Karen is backlit by the sky as she prepares to drop into this cave pool.

Like the Tuamotus, the island of Niue was formed as a coral atol, just awash at sea level. Unlike the Tuamotus, Niue was an atol eons ago when sea level was nearly 200 feet higher. As the sea receded, the coral fossilized leaving a rocky pancake of sea-etched limestone nearly 200 feet tall. Niue is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It looks so plain and unassuming that, as we approach I’m already making plans to depart; I mean how much diversity can there be on a giant flat rock? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Low Tide – A perfect time to explore the limestone cracks that drop 3 – 4 m into tidal flats
More Coral - Can't say enough about it! Beautiful.
More Coral – Can’t say enough about it! Beautiful.
Slightly Damp - We spent 80% of each day in the water.
Slightly Damp – We spent 80% of each day in the water.

For starters, the Niuean people are extremely laid back and family-oriented. The island’s 2000 or so inhabitants nearly all seem to be warm and friendly, invariably giving a wave or a friendly ‘hello’ in passing. Even small children are confident enough to give a stranger a warm smile and a kind greeting. After the somewhat reserved, French-influenced attitudes of the Society Islands, this warmth and openness is a refreshing change. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we’re back in English-speaking territory, both Niuean and English are spoken thanks to Niue’s administrative affiliation with New Zealand.


Cliff Jump - We couldn't resist this 8m drop. Sarah styles it out.
Cliff Jump – We couldn’t resist this 8m drop. Sarah styles it out.
Giant Arch - This arch and tidal flat made for some great exploring
Giant Arch – This arch and tidal flat made for some great exploring
Happy People - Sarah, Karen & Sean
Happy People – Sarah, Karen & Sean

Perhaps the most surprising thing for me about Niue, however, is the incredible diversity of creatures and spectacular destinations. In a very short time we saw limestone caverns, sea-carved arches, steep chasms, freshwater pools, coral gardens, whales, spinner dolphins, deadly (but friendly!) sea snakes, colorful reef fish, tide pools, tidal caves, cliff drops, and more. Even sites that were only a few hundred meters apart had completely different things to see and do. Naturally, we tended toward the water-oriented features, which were stunning, but made even more incredible by the crystal clear water clarity. Because the island is actually one big hunk of limestone (it’s affectionately called “The Rock” by those who know it) the water is almost completely devoid of sediment, making the diving and snorkeling some of the best in the world.


Chasing the Chasm - Karen & Sarah head into Matavai Chasm
Chasing the Chasm – Karen & Sarah head into Matavai Chasm
Top Down - Observing the Big Guy in his natural environment. Peter about 5m below.
Top Down – Observing the Big Guy in his natural environment. Peter about 5m below.
Beneath the Arch - One of my favorite angles of the giant arch.
Beneath the Arch – One of my favorite angles of the giant arch.

Simply put, we were gob-smacked by this place. Because of brewing weather systems we felt it best to leave after just a week, but I put Niue toward the top of a future return list. The locals would prefer to keep this a well-kept secret, but I’ll say if you ever have the chance, don’t miss a stop at “The Rock.” For me, it’s a good reminder not to generate expectations, and certainly never to judge a book by it’s cover.


Feathers - These green feathery creatures made for great color contrast on the red rock
Feathers – These green feathery creatures made for great color contrast on the red rock
Buddy - Sean sporting the shaka, reminds us all to keep it loose
Buddy – Sean sporting the shaka, reminds us all to keep it loose
Impressionism - Peter & Karen shimmer like a painting in the mix of fresh and salt water. No affects.
Impressionism – Peter & Karen shimmer like a painting in the mix of fresh and salt water. No affects.
Niuean Sunset - Some changes in the weather are apparent as cyclone season approaches
Niuean Sunset – Some changes in the weather are apparent as cyclone season approaches

One thought on “October 14, 2016 – #30 – The Rock”

  1. Wonderful images of ya’ll!! Though not a water person, I could see myself exploring that gorgeous water. Hugs to all of you!

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