Niue Island, Polynesia. Have you ever seen the ocean turn day-glo pink? It does here naturally during a sunset (this is not photoshopped).
Niue (new-way) is the Polynesian paradise you’ve never heard of .
Niue – Polynesian for “Hey, guys, there are coconuts here!” – the first thing the original discoverers exclaimed when they landed from Samoa a thousand years ago, is called “The Rock of Polynesia,” as it’s a raised coral atoll, 100 square miles of old limestone between 60 and 200 feet high.
Rainwater collects in underground pools in deep limestone caverns, creating a “water lens” of fresh water of enormous size, one of the world’s biggest. An Olympic swimming pool holds 650,000 gallons. Niue’s water lens may contain a million Olympic swimming pools of pure fresh water, continuously replenished by abundant rainfall.
Yet, Niue remains the Paradise Never Found. If you’re like most everyone else, you’ve dreamed of going to the South Pacific. All your life you’ve heard of Tahiti or Samoa or Fiji, quite possibly Tonga or Rarotonga.
How come? The island is uniquely fabulous. As a huge limestone rock with no silty river runoff, the water is incredibly clear – visibility can reach over 200 feet. There are a multitude of chasms through which you clamber to these out-of-a-movie tidal pools perfect for snorkeling surrounded by colorful reef fish. The limestone cliffs encircling the coast are riddled with caves with multicolored stalactites and stalagmites.
You can snorkel or dive with spinner dolphins and humpback whales. The big game fishing is world class – within a few hundred yards off shore. The Niueans are unfailingly friendly and welcoming, the places to stay and the food and beer is inexpensive, the weather is balmy perfect – and no one is here, the economy is dying on the vine in the middle of the world’s tourism paradise. Why?
Because you can’t get here.
You can’t fly here from Tonga, just 375 miles away. You can’t fly here from Samoa, just 380 miles away. You can’t fly here from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, 675 miles away. Look at the map above. The only way to fly here is from Auckland New Zealand 1,500 miles away and back.
The “government” of Niue pretends it’s “the world’s smallest independent nation,” and even suckered Lonely Planet into believing it. The reality is that Niue is a total absolute colony of New Zealand – Niueans are NZ citizens with NZ passports, there is no Niuean citizenship, there are no Niuean passports.
The Kiwis insist on maintaining a total monopoly of access to Niue – while constantly complaining how much money they spend on subsidizing Niue and its people.
As a result, over 90% of Niueans live in New Zealand now, some 22,000, while less than 2,000 live here, their homeland. Every village has more abandoned homes, empty wrecked roofless shells, than lived-in homes.
This place should be booming. Tourism is the biggest business in the world (add it all up – airlines, hotels, rental cars, restaurants, trains, buses, tour companies, etc. – you’ll quickly see why). A vacation in a Polynesian Paradise is every traveler’s dream. Only a government is capable of screwing this up so stupidly.
The really scary part is that New Zealand has one of the best run governments in the world, one of the freest economies, one of the least corrupt – so why in the world are the Kiwis determined to ruin this place and its people? It’s a real puzzle.
Meanwhile, here are some photos of the unique paradise of Niue. Maybe the Kiwis will someday allow it to be easy for you to see it for yourself.
Jack Wheeler is the founder of Wheeler Expeditions.