Niue is a mega-chunk of dead coral; really ancient coral that’s been high and dry for millions of years. It’s also a great place to see live coral (and all the colourful fishies that come with it).
We’ve visited Niue three times during the last five years. Each time we get an even bigger buzz from the turquoise pools and deep chasms that make the island unlike the other places we’ve explored with a mask and snorkel (Samoa, Fiji, Vava’u, Tongatapu, Rarotonga, Phi Phi, Bali, Langkawi and Hawaii).
Snorkelling in Niue nearly always starts with a walk down a ‘sea track’, a footpath that leads downhill from the coastal road that circumnavigates the island. Every track is unique. Some lead through the jungle, then down steps to the edge of the ocean. Others run through a cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, before they reach the sea. And one particularly memorable path travels along the base of a deep gorge, which is flooded with the ocean at its far end.
So when you’re visiting Niue, snorkelling will be high on your to-do list. To help you find snorkel satisfaction, here’s a quick guide to five of the best.
Located between Hio Beach and Talava Arches on the west coast of the island, Limu Pools is the number one snorkelling location on Niue. Best at half tide, it’s sheltered from the ocean and has three access points with staircases leading down to the water. You’ll see a multitude of living corals – gorgeous yellow, pink and purple confections – as well as numerous coral fish, including hordes of prison tang and butterfly fish. The most outstanding speciment I’ve seen here was a bright yellow box fish that was about 40cm from bow to stern.
Helpful facts: There’s a changing room, toilets and fresh water showers at the top of the track. Shaded seating areas make Limu Pools a delightful picnic spot.
Avoid low tide if you want to explore Avatele, which is at the southern end of Niue’s west coast (past the Matavai Resort). This off-the-sand snorkel delivers on all the ‘Pacific heaven’ fronts, with swaying palm trees, a white coral beach and plenty to see under the water. Just avoid the channel – if you get sucked out to beyond the reef, it’s hard work getting back. Best sight I’ve seen here was a one-metre banded coral snake.
Helpful facts: There’s a (dilapidated) changing shed, toilets and showers at Avatele. On Sundays, the Washaway Café makes a great lunch stop.
This amazing swimming chasm is a short walk from the park that also provides access to Talava Arches. It’s an any-tide swim in a deep ravine that’s open to the ocean, but protected from big waves by a rock fall. There are fish and corals to keep the swimming interesting, but the main point of difference is the depth of the pool. Do a free dive to the bottom and you’ll need to clear your ears on the way down. Adventurous locals like to jump into the pool from high by climbing up the left-hand rock face.
Helpful facts: There are toilets and showers at the start of the track.
You need a low tide for this swim, preferably an extra-low tide, but it’s a stunner – utterly worth the fussing about with tide charts. Access is from the Hikutavake sea track. At the base of the track, leave your bag and towel somewhere dry before walking across the exposed coral to the huge blue pool. Reef shoes are a must. At the extreme right of the pool is a place for either jumping or slithering into the water. Be mindful of delicate corals when doing this. The pool is deep and with plenty of big fish (who are waiting for the high tide, so they can escape back to the ocean). The corals around the edges of the pool are exquisite.
Helpful facts: There’s plenty of parking at the top of the track; showers but no toilet.
While this low-tide swim/snorkel isn’t huge on fish and coral, the setting is spectacular. You’re swimming in a cave that’s open to the sea and above you is a ceiling of stalactites. There’s also an underwater arch you can dive through to pop up in another pool. Access is from the base of the Avaiki sea track; walk across the coral to the right. This cave was once a bathing spot for Niuean royalty.
Helpful facts: Reef shoes advised.