Things You Can’t Miss in The Niuas
Sitting isolated in the South Pacific Ocean, not only from the rest of its own country, being closer to Samoa, but from each other being 100km (60 miles) apart, The Niuas is the ultimate adventure for travellers in Tonga. Made up of three main islands, Niuatoputau, Niuafo’ou and Tafahi, The Niuas are Tonga’s least developed island group and provide an insight into how life in the South Pacific used to be. Those who make the effort to get there, which you can do by following our tips in the 5 Ways to Get to The Niuas (& Get Around The Niuas), will be rewarded with some of the following must-dos in The Niuas!
1. Hike to the Top of Niuatoputapu
Get an amazing vantage point of the surrounding island, villages of Hihifo, Vaipoa and Falehau and especially of the volcanic cone of Tafahi Island from the top of Niuatoputapu. This is a common sight that locals will show visitors in Niuatoputapu, taking you on a steady but steep climb to Niuatoputapu’s highest point at 157m (515ft). At the top, the hill is exposed with grassy areas and clusters of volcanic rock.
2. Take a Trip to Tafahi
The perfectly cone-shaped extinct volcano is ever so enticing sitting 9km (5.6 miles) from Niuatoputapu. Local fishermen take the trip to Tafahi almost daily where you can negotiate a boat ride across the water and back. There is one village on Tafahi, but most visitors to the island prefer to tackle the steep climb to the top of the volcano! It’s best to get yourself a guide for this mission, as with most places you’ll want to visit in the Niuas.
3. Take a Dip in the Hihifo Freshwater Spring
In The Niuas largest village, Hihifo, there’s a special natural attraction well worth finding! In a grassy clearing of the village, the lawns seemingly have a large crack in the surface filled by some of the clearest water you’re ever likely to see! This is the Hihifo Freshwater Spring, a cooling place for a dip, especially with the high air temperatures experienced in The Niuas – much higher than the rest of Tonga! There are a small set of steps leading into the pool.
4. Snorkel and Scuba Dive Among Untouched Coral
Ever seen what real healthy pristine coral looks like? You’ll certainly find out by sticking your head in the water in The Niuas. The best place for snorkelling or scuba diving (if you have your own gear) is the outer reefs of Niuatoputapu. There is also a shipwreck a little further out, which you could negotiate with the locals to show you. Good snorkelling can also be found among the lagoons of Niuatoputapu.
5. Donate Supplies to a School
With no tourism operators, integrating yourself into village life and showing your appreciation to the locals who welcome you is a good way to approach a visit to The Niuas. Bring some school supplies, like crayons, exercise books and pencils, for example, and donate them to some of the village schools that are always in need.
Location: All three islands
6. Do Some Whale Watching
Yes, humpback whales even come as far as The Niuas during their migration from the Antarctic between July and October. Some of the vantage points we’ve mentioned so far are good spots to look out for whales from afar. Whales can sometimes be spotted from the beaches of Niuatoputapu and the coast of Niuafo’ou, while many yachties also find themselves meeting whales that are curious about their boats.
Location: All three islands
7. Do Some Fishing with a Local
Fishing is a way of life in The Niuas. Those who are interested in the sport could get an authentic experience heading out with one of the local fishermen. Learn traditional fishing techniques and try the fresh fish you catch with a barbecue at the end of the day. Note that ciguatera is a food poisoning caught by certain reef fish, so ask a local what fish is safe to eat – learn more in How to Keep Safe in Tonga.
8. Attend a Sunday Church Service
Another way for visitors to immerse in the culture of The Niuas is to attend a Sunday church service. Sunday is a day of rest in Tonga where Tongans will attend a church mass on a Sunday morning and/or afternoon. Visitors are welcome to church services where you’ll get to experience beautiful harmonious singing which echos across the small islands. Remember to dress appropriately for the church services, covering below the knee and shoulders. Wear your “Sunday best”! Learn more about the religion in Tonga here.
9. Try ‘Ofato
If you get friendly with the locals, you could be invited to a cook-out or a Tongan barbecue to experience what the locals eat. However, locals on Niuafo’ou have a special delicacy that you may or may not want to try. ‘Ofato is a large native grub only found on the trees of Niuafo’ou that locals collect to eat! Hardcore locals will just pick them off the trees and eat them raw, while others prefer to fry, grill or roast them on an open fire. If you spend any good amount of time on Niuafo’ou, you will inevitably try it, so be mentally prepared!
10. Check Out Vai Lahi
A perhaps more relaxing activity in Niuafo’ou is checking out Vai Lahi. Meaning “Big Lake”, Vai Lahi is the large freshwater lake in the crater of Niuafo’ou. The lake sits 23m (75ft) above sea level and contains four islands, one of which is only visible when the water level drops. Locals may be able to take you to one of the vantage points for a good photo opportunity!