After two spectacular days exploring the land in Niue, Monday morning was time to return the car and then meet Remi from Magical Niue Adventures for a day of diving. We dropped the car off early morning, went to the yacht club for a bit of internet time and returned to our yacht to get our dive gear ready. Just after lunch, we saw their rigid inflatable launched at the dock and they came over and picked us up from our yacht. Mick is a local who is the skipper for Magical Niue and also happens to skipper the tug for when the one ship a month arrives in Niue. He is a character and typical of the ultra-friendly nature of the Niueans.
We headed north and just as we exited Alofi bay, a pod of dolphins joined us on the bow. Quickly, two at a time, we jumped in the water, hanging onto the side of the boat as we cruised along at just 1.5 knots. Amazingly, even at this speed, the dolphins stayed on the bow and played. Neither Annika or I had ever swum with dolphins. In the deep blue water, with 50m visibility, to have 6-10 dolphins playing on the bow just 5m in front of you was amazing. What a start to the dive day. We could have returned to the boat and would have been happy.
We headed up to the north-east coast to a place called ‘the Chimneys’. It is a dive with two holes going down and at the bottom the holes are joined by a tunnel. At the mooring we left Mike onboard and Remi guided us down the first chimney. The color of the water, set amongst the coral covered rocks is simply stunning, however when you get down and look out of the chimney out to sea, well it is quite spectacular. A couple of large sweetlip joined us at the bottom and even a small school of Giant Trevally wanted to play with us, however the highlight to me, was diving with sea snakes. Having never been diving with these docile snakes, it was something else to see them swimming amongst the fins of other divers. The dive was brilliant for the contours, something that I love in a dive. The pictures tell the story better than my words ever will.
Our second dive was along the wall a little further north. It didn’t have a name, it was a place we wanted to check out for Remi. We dropped in on the shelf and swam into an entrance and from the surface it looked like a whale head. We swam around the chasm and then out to the drop off again. A short swim north and we entered another channel and this one broke into several different paths. It became a maze as the rock walls rose up all around you. A couple of swim throughs, lots of fish and plenty of juvenile corals were a highlight, however once again, I found myself chasing sea snakes and there were plenty of them. We ended up calling it ‘The Canyons.’
On the way home we came across the dolphins once again and had a swim. What an awesome day we had. The color of the water is everything in this place. Remi kept telling us that Niue doesn’t have any dives ranked in the top 100 dives in the world, however if you give a diver 50m plus of visibility and sea snakes, coral and fish, every diver will be happy. Remi also kept saying the visibility wasn’t that good. Well to us 50m visibility is good, but he is used to 70-100m that is typically found through the winter months. It just made us even more keen for the next day when we would go out again.
Tuesday morning and we got picked up early and headed south this time. The first dive was at a place known for its fan corals. It is a deep dive and we dropped down to 32m before we saw the first fans. I dropped right down to 39m where a heap of them were growing. Both Annika and I were looking for pygmy sea horses but found none. We then swam back up a few channels and then onto the reef slope. The corals were beautiful. Every coral here is pretty much new due to cyclone Heta that destroyed the reef in 2004. There were plenty of fish around too.
The next dive was just south of Avatele Beach and is known as snake gulley. However it was also well known for a cave that had a lot of residents. We dropped down and entered the cave. As you entered, Remi was lighting up the walls. In every little nook there was a painted cray. There were big ones, small ones and they were everywhere. The cave winds in a bit before turning to the right and heading up and out a narrow exit. There were so many crays, you could’ve put on a feast for the entire island. Back out of the cave we swam around the reef and it was snake gulley. There were sea snakes everywhere. At one stage I was following three snakes that were chasing a goat fish. Every time the goat fish took a bite at the reef, the snakes would eat some of the debris coming off the reef. It was really fascinating to watch them swimming along, winding themselves in and out of each other. It was cool.
The trip home saw dolphins once again. It seemed they couldn’t get enough of the boat. We didn’t jump in as it was a little rough. The afternoon on the boat was spent looking at photos and video we had taken. Wednesday morning and it was time to help out Remi and the Niue Yacht Club by installing some of the yacht moorings. Remi just needed someone to dive with and I was in the boat on the surface. We installed 5 moorings in the morning before having a relaxing afternoon. It had been more work that we had been used to so we were fairly tired. That evening Remi, another Aussie who had dived the first day with us and I went for a night dive off the jetty. I didn’t think it would be that special, however I was proved wrong. Feather-stars littered the rock faces, we saw a white tip reef shark, flat head lobster, lots of painted crays, nudibranchs, sea snakes and lots of fish. It was amazing. We all came up and couldn’t stop talking about it. The only issue was that somehow I had turned my GoPro onto still photos instead of video. In all the excitement I hadn’t realised and so all the still shots were blurry as I thought it was shooting video. I only realised half way through the dive so I missed the shark which was frustrating as I had a good long dive with him.
The following day we had to move a couple of the moorings we had actually put in the wrong spot and Annika and I just dived under the yacht after that. We had to make water and do some boat stuff as we had planned to leave Friday for Fiji. The weather forecast was for good solid 20-25 knot East to South-East winds which would make for a quick journey. If we left too late the winds were going to disappear before we made it to Nadi. Even diving under the moorings was spectacular. It was testament to why you are asked not to anchor. If you anchored in this location, not only would you need a lot of chain for the depth, it would be hard to find a spot to get the anchor to grab without it winding itself around rocks and shortening up. The coral is undamaged and the fish life is numerous. Banning anchoring is a fantastic thing for this place and I encourage anyone sailing into this place to go for a dive or snorkel around your boat. It is pretty cool.
Friday is plane day for Niue so Remi wasn’t available. Only one plane flies in each week during cyclone season so all the hotels and car rental places are busy turning rooms and cars around. The monthly ship was also due to arrive that afternoon. We checked out of customs which was quite a simple process. A small yacht with two young French guys had turned up the night before, lucky we had installed the moorings. They had bought their yacht in Tahiti. It was their first yacht and they had simply sailed from French Polynesia to Niue. Pity they hadn’t checked out of French Polynesia. They had no clearance and hadn’t even had their passports stamped. The locals were pretty nice in the way they handled it and we helped explain the procedure they are meant to undergo. Luckily they weren’t turned away, they simply had to pay a fine which was NZ$200 per person. Tonga is about $2000 per person so they were really lucky. We had lunch at the Falafa restaurant just up from the Niue Yacht Club. We then did some final shopping and returned to the boat.
As we left the wharf the ship was arriving. We saw the tug boat craned in off the wharf, along with the barge. The ship cannot tie up to the wharf and hence all the containers and cargo are loaded onto a barge and ferried into the wharf where it is craned off. Mick was the driver of the tug and I can tell you he doesn’t mess around. Work place health and safety regulations are a little slacker than Australia. People were riding containers off the ship and onto the barge and then onto the wharf. No ropes were used at any time between the barge and ship or shore. The crane on the ship simply had the containers hanging over the side, Mick would drive the barge underneath them, the crane lowered them onto the deck and they were unhooked. After my experiences in Australia, I found it quite amusing, but it was fast.
Overnight the ship cruised around off the coast and came back in the morning. We left just before sun up and eased off our mooring, bound for Fiji. Our stay in Niue had initially been planned for 5 days, maybe 7 if it was nice. We stayed 11. Considering Fiji was our next stop, my second home and a place I was really excited about getting to, well it shows just how good this place was. I think Julz and Remi have it perfect when they named their business Magical Niue Adventures. This place is magical. So many highlights, such friendly places and we certainly left with new friends. We will return, that’s for sure.
The one thing to consider when you are thinking of Niue as a destination and having read our 4 blogs on Niue, we missed the biggest tourism attraction that Niue has. We were there before the whales got there. Swimming with Whales is the number one reason people go to Niue. They arrive in May and stay till September/October. We had the joy of swimming with dolphins in this clear water. Imagine swimming with Humpbacks?
In our next edition we sail to Fiji, my second home. I hadn’t been there for 13 years so would it be the same or had it changed?
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