The name Niue means, “Behold – the coconut palms” and there were certainly plenty of them around. Alofi is the capital city, divided into North Alofi and South Alofi, where most of the government offices are located. Only about 600 people live in Alofi. Over 20,000 Niueans live in New Zealand which had annexed the island until it was granted self government. It now works in free association with New Zealand and that country does much of the negotiating regarding trade and economy on behalf of the island . Nieu is the world’s smallest self-governing state and Queen Elizabeth II is the official head of state. The entire island of 100 sq miles (260 sq km) has less than 1500 inhabitants but it is one of the world’s largest coral islands. It is a solid coral limestone rock in the middle of a vast stretch of sea. Like the other islands we have visited Niue has a ring road (30 miles/50 km long) around the coast and a few roads going inland. Since there were no tours on offer and the weather was nice we joined our friends Mel and Kelley (we met on the 2009 World Cruise) and hired a private guide for the day. We wanted to go snorkeling so Susan took us to a quiet cove and left us to enjoy ourselves for an hour or so.
It was a bit of a clamber through the jungle and over uneven rocks to arrive at the cove but it was a beautiful spot. Susan told us there would be some sea snakes in the water but that they were harmless and shy so they would not bother us. We had a good time following the fishes and one of the snakes and seeing some brightly coloured coral. After we had finished snorkeling Susan drove us to some of the island sights and points-of-interest. I loved the signage. We did a cliff-side hike to a lovely viewpoint on the north side of the island. Interesting fossils embedded in the limestone. Such a beautiful coast. Not very hospitable though. There is only one opening in the reef that is safe to take boats through. The entrance to Matapa Chasm is quite well hidden if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Behold the coconut palm.After that Susan took us back to town where we had a wander around before catching a tender back to the ship. Last tender was 1:30 and the ship set sail at 2. On the way to our table for dinner that night we stopped to show our friends Harold and Martha (from Australia – we also met them on the 2009 world cruise) our photos of the fish and sea snake that we had seen. Harold immediately exclaimed, “That is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. There is no antidote and you will be dead in a short time.” Well, that was a bit of a shocker. Turns out he is correct but the snakes are still considered harmless because they are totally non-aggressive, pretty much always swim away from people and, on the rare occasions they do bite, rarely inject venom. Not sure I would consider them harmless though.That night as the ship sailed westward, we crossed the International Date Line. We went to bed on February 1 and woke up on February 3 and a stop at the last of the South Pacific islands before we reach New Zealand.