One of the big attractions to Niue is that it is a prime breeding area for whales. We were expecting to see a lot from all the stories we had heard. Yet, when we arrived we heard only a few had been spotted so far this year. On two nights over the weekend some of the boats in the anchorage had a couple of whales show up right next to their boats! We didn’t hear or see them either time. There were actually more whales at Rarotonga than here – so far at least.
When we first arrived, we were immediately offered to take the final two seats in a rented mini-van to do an island tour, with some other boaters, on the next day. We got up early (at least early for Karen) on Friday morning and got cameras, sturdy shoes, snorkel gear, and sun screen.
Niue is a raised coral reef. This was abundantly clear when we went hiking. All throughout the tropical forest we hiked through you could see large fossilized coral reef rocks. It was like being in a coral reef underwater (if you ignored the trees and plants), and I could almost imagine the fish swimming around. We went to some cliff views of the sea, and to some areas with chasms and caves. The reef rock cliffs are extremely jagged and the sea views are spectacularly blue and beautiful! We went through some caves and could see the ocean through the cave entrance. Awesome!
Here is a photo album of pictures from the car tour and subsequent day photos (described below):
View full-sized slideshow
We had lunch back at the main town (only place with restaurants), then went to the north side of the island to do a hike to some natural arches. I took a 360 panorama of one of the arches in a beautiful spot with coral reefs below and caves behind us. We also walked to a chasm with a water pool and had a nice refreshing swim. We did a few more cave walks on the way back. It was a great tour!
On Saturday, I spent a good portion of the day figuring out how to upgrade my Nexus One to Android 2.2. It wasn’t easy because my phone had a non-standard custom install. But, I finally got it done. Mid-morning, Jack from Anthem invited us to go diving. Karen was too tired from the hike, so I went with Jack by myself. We did some cool reef cave diving and saw some sea snakes along the way. Very few live corals though. More bad signs about coral life dying around the planet.
In the evening, there was a whale fundraiser which we planned to attend. But, Karen was 80% of the way done setting up to buy our plane tickets from New Zealand back to the US for the holidays. So, we decided not to go. We were sorry later because we heard they got to see several whales – and they were breeching (jumping) during the sunset. They said a couple more whales have arrived and there have been more sightings.
On Sunday, the monthly supply ship was scheduled to arrive. Unfortunate timing for the locals because they normally keep everything closed on Sundays. Since there is only one wharf to get ashore, they don’t allow the dinghies to come ashore when the supply ship is here. So, we organized a roster for boaters to provide water taxi service to take boaters in. I was the first shift at 8 AM. I went to visit one of the departing boats around 7 AM and as I was talking to them we saw some whales headed into the anchorage!
I ran to get the camera and managed a couple of shots of them on their next surfacing. They typically surface a few times and then go under for about 10-11 minutes. I saw some boaters get their snorkel gear and start swimming to their last location so I went to get my snorkel gear and tell Karen (who was still sleeping) about the whales. But, I was too late once I got in the water and the whales had moved to the far part of the anchorage. All the boaters were up and looking at the whales though. Very cool!
Sunday was a beautiful day. The supply ship was late, but finally showed up in the early afternoon. As it approached, I noticed an upside down catamaran on the deck. I wondered if it was the catamaran that capsized a month ago (the s/v Anna I wrote about earlier). A quick look with the binoculars and I confirmed it was Anna! Someone had salvage it.
We moved Tahina to a closer mooring so our trips with the dinghy ashore would be quicker. It also gave us a closer view to the ship operations. I spent the afternoon exploring under Tahina using the Video Ray and snorkeling. We finished the day by visiting the s/v “Jerana” for sundowners. Another wonderful day in Niue!
We have decided we will go ahead with visiting America Samoa next. But, we have to wait until later this week for the winds to be right. We’ll be perfectly happy hanging out here in Niue for the week.