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Niue - Enviornment

Niue Environment

Lonely Niue's closest South Pacific neighbours are Tonga (600km/372mi) to the west and the Cook Islands (1087km/675mi) to the east; Auckland is a massive 2486km/1545mi away to the south. Known as 'the Rock of Polynesia', Niue is a textbook-perfect example of a makatea, or 'raised atoll' island, formed aeons ago when coral reef was hoisted above sea level by a primeval upheaval of reef-moving proportions. At 259 sq km (100 sq mi), Niue is about the size of four Manhattan Islands strung together, making it one of the largest coral atolls in the world.

The island's limestone outcrops rise sheer out of the surrounding blue to two-tiered heights of 20m (65ft) and 65m (213ft). There are few beaches, but the spectacular subterranean caves, grottoes and swimming holes more than compensate for the lack of sand. There are also no rivers on the island, as rainfall simply seeps through the porous limestone and pours unsullied into the luminous seas - just one reason why the diving visibility is so perfect.

A priceless patch of tropical forest is preserved in the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area on Niue's east coast, dense with spectacular trees and wildflowers, and impenetrable stretches of coastal vegetation. Niue's birdlife is prolific, despite the presence of feral cats on the island, and includes parakeets, swamp hens and white-tailed terns. Rats and fruit bats are the only native mammals, and other island creatures include coconut crabs and butterflies. Swarms of striped sea snakes (katuali) turn the offshore dive sites into something out of a horror movie, but thankfully their mouths are too small to manage more than the tiniest nibble. The island's fringing reef is also visited by tropical fish, pods of spinner dolphins and migratory humpback whales.

Niue isn't as typically tropical as a Micronesian island, for example. It enjoys humid but mild mid-year temperatures, thanks to the south-east trade winds, but you'll need wet-weather gear year-round - especially during the December-March cyclone season.

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