This post picks up from where we left off in my previous story from Niue and, if you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here.
We kicked off day 5 with by revisiting of the beaches we had been to before: Hio Beach. The other time, however, we only had lunch at the Café and checked the views from there. So now we wanted to see what the beach was all about.
It might not be the best for snorkelling with its shallow waters, but is great for walking around the coral reefs to really showcase how clear and warm the waters here are. Yes, warm, even though this is winter – have I said I love this place?
We then made our way back to the resort because just next door is Niue Blue, a company specialised in whale watching tours. My partner is obsessed with whales and will share facts about them for hours, so swimming with them had been in our bucket lists for quite some time, and one of the main reasons we chose Niue around this time of year.
We walked to their office, met the rest of our group and sized up our wetsuits. The pools were warm, but being on the open sea for extended periods of time is a different story, so the wetsuit was the right decision – and I went for a full-body one. And after being handed the suit, we had to drive to the wharf to board the boat. Driving while wearing a full wetsuit was not something I was planning on doing, but I’m just glad I didn’t try to do it with the flippers on as well.
Once at the wharf, we saw the boat being launched into the water. As soon as we were finished boarding, our skipper mentioned having seen a group of whales far into the distance, so we would start going that way.
It was a 20 minute journey until he decided to shut the engine off, look around and decide if we needed to go in another direction. In the meantime, our guide was teaching us about how to swim around the whales and sharing super interesting information about them. The humpback whales stay around 5 months here and won’t eat a single thing during this time – I guess I left very little left for them, the food here is really that good.
At a certain point, one of tour mates shooshed all of us because she thought she had heard a whale singing. I scoffed thinking this was impossible, but she was right, we were really hearing that very same whale the skipper saw before sing so loudly we could hear it by resting our ears against the boat.
The guide said only the males of this species sing, and they usually do so much deeper, so we were in the presence of something very special. I wasted no time and jumped into the water and started swimming in his direction, always following the guide that was in front making sure we kept the required distance and didn’t startle him.
As soon as our heads got underwater, we could hear the singing much louder, even to a point where the frequency would shake our bodies. I never thought this could be the case, as I had only heard stories of people resorting to devices to be able to amplify their singing.
We were getting closer and closer until when the never-ending blue was interrupted by the black and white of his body. These whales have adapted to have the lower part of their bodies to be white so that when looking from below, they mix with the sunlight, and vice-versa for the upper part. But he was decided on putting on a show for us, with all the singing and some very gracious dancing.
Something special, indeed! And we kept swimming until we couldn’t keep up anymore, regardless of how hard we tried. Back to the boat, we started looking for fins again to find our next swimming buddies. Yes, plural, because some 20 minutes later we found a pair swimming together!
They were not singing, but were curious with us so we got their company for a while. And when they thought that was enough, all it took was a handful of strokes with their tail and they were gone. They looked serene and relaxed when doing that, but the amount of water displaced by that tail wagging must have been off the charts.
Another cool thing of Niue being so small is that during this cruise, we covered almost half of the country’s circumference, and at a certain point we came across another group of whales – you really can’t stay far from them for too long. This time, however, they were putting up a more “aggressive” show, breaching – when they have their bodies come out of the water, something we still don’t know exactly why they do, according to the guide.
When they do that, it is too dangerous to go into the water so we appreciated the action from the safety of the boat, until it was time to start heading back to the wharf.
We then made it back to the resort to have that experience sink in and get prepared to go to another one of the country’s farmers market. This time it was held in the same where we went to the supermarket the other day, and a big portion of Niue’s population was there.
I never had a single interaction with a Niuean (or an expat living there, for that matter) that wasn’t anything but incredible, and this farmer market was no exception. We had a few very interesting things to eat (waffle + ice cream + Cheetos, anyone?) and drink, and being able to pay everything with our own NZD cash makes things even easier.
There was plenty of music, mingling, and culture – even the same folklore group that performed in the hotel was there, this time with a lot more room to do their thing, which was a great way to finish off one of the most special days of the whole trip.
Sunday is a day of prayer and rest for the Niueans. Most of them will go to the many churches in either/both morning and afternoon sessions, and it is recommended that you skip some of the attractions that are too close to villages and their churches. We planned our activities around this and started our day by Avatele beach.
This beach is in every must-do list you find, and is indeed a beautiful spot, but maybe a bit hard to swim in. There are warning signs as you approach the water, but I went in attracted by the stunning reef and the 1m+ needle fish and sea snakes swimming around. I tried to stand up against the currents, and was quickly humbled by the force of the sea.
All that swimming created an appetite, so it was time for the Washaway Cafe. The gentleman that handed us our car at the airport on Monday was also hard at work getting everyone’s food prepared. The Café only opens on Sundays, and has a self-service model where you get what you want, write on the ledger and pay as you’re leaving. Oh, and their burgers are very good.
After lunch, we drove back to the unexplored East Coast for Togo Chasm. It’s one of the longest tracks that you can easily access, and goes through an interesting forest that looks nothing like the other ones I was used to. A work friend of ours recommended this track and said that it felt like you were in a pirate movie set, and it definitely did deliver. I was ready to see Jack Sparrow around, and I still cannot believe that movie came out 20 years ago – showing my age here.
I was so inspired by that that I grabbed a coconut from the tree and opened it with my bare hands, in my burliest action of a handful of years. Its water was as fresh as you’d expect, and a great way to savour being in that location. Niue means “behold the coconut” in their language after all, so it’s only natural.
On the way there, I drove past something that broke my heart. At this point, I was used to seeing rusted out cars, but this beautiful R33 was hard to see. I just hope it had some amazing last few years driving around this special place.
The dawn of the last day is usually quite sad in trips like these, but Niue made it a bit easier on us with a beautiful sunny forecast. We filled up our ride in the country’s only petrol station after 450km and returned it to the airport – and by returning, I mean “parking it and leaving the keys in the ignition until someone could come pick it up”, these were the instructions given to me.
People started gathering around the airport a few hours before the flight, as I imagine it must be a big thing for them with family leaving or returning. After checking in, we went to the gate to wait until the plane touched ground. This time, we were “on the other side of the fence”, looking at those that had just arrived in the country leaving the plane still wearing their jackets, while I was in shorts and jandals dreading the cold that was waiting for me just three hours away.
If it still isn’t clear by now, we had an unbelievable time in Niue, and think everyone should visit. Such amazing views, incredible people and delicious food made for a very special place I plan on coming back, sooner rather than later. So just wait until you hear me singing its praises again, just not as gracefully as my buddy whale there! Thanks for reading!