The SCUBA diving in Niue is world class. And it's a lot different than the experience I had diving elsewhere over this past year.
I received my diving certification from Ko Tao in Thailand a year ago. Since then I went diving in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. These dive sites were amazing but none of them had the underwater creatures or rock formations Niue had!
Before arriving to Niue, I had heard about its amazingly high visibility and unique sea snakes populating the waters. I had also heard about the possibility of bumping into, or at the very least hearing the songs of, humpback whales while diving there. What topped it all for me were Niue's extravagant underwater caves and catacombs!
I had a top notch experience diving Bubble Cave, Snake Gully, and other cavernous dive sites around Niue where the creepy and the beautiful come together under the sea.
Bubble Cave is a favorite dive site among visitors to Niue. The BBC Life TV series made it famous after it was featured in its “Reptiles and Amphibians” episode. The reptile of interest there in Bubble Cave is the Niuean Sea Krait, or sea snake.
The sea krait is unique only to Niue, and Bubble Cave is their breeding ground.
Jono and I had already seen a few sea krait while snorkeling around Niue. Now we were going to see them out in the open blue and creeping around the dark caves and catacombs beyond the reef flats.
We geared up and took a little zodiac boat around the corner from Sir Robert’s Wharf. Bubble Cave was under the surface at the base of the island ahead of us.
We were following our guide from Buccaneer Adventures as we descended into a channel and wove up to about 6m of water.
At the mouth of Bubble Cave, we expected to see plenty of snakes. Instead, we had an encounter with an entirely different creature on the way in. To our surprise—and our guide’s!—a white-tip reef shark shot into the cave ahead looking for a bite to eat.
I caught the shark on camera! Have a watch:
As soon as the shark realized we were going to be staying there, it peaced out. Dramatic music aside, sharks are actually rather misunderstood animals due to the overdramatized Jaws movies and a disproportionate focus on shark attacks in the news.
In reality, they’re quite friendly creatures. If not friendly, they’re much more scared of us than we are of them!
After the shark made its departure we entered the darkness of Bubble Cave with only our flashlights to guide us. We were able to surface inside the cave and have a look around at the large stalactites and crevices embedded in the cave walls.
That’s when we spotted the babies. Tiny little baby krait were tucked into depressions in the cave walls. Their small size and the awkward way they moved reminded me of Slimey the Worm from Sesame Street. They were almost puppet-like!
After a few minutes they started to squirm away. Our flashlights were pretty disturbing to them. They probably had never seen daylight before!
Since we surfaced inside the cave, I had to keep equalizing (popping) my ears to counter the variations in pressure.
The cave is completely enclosed and only accessible by diving under water and surfacing inside. As a result, the waves crashing on the outside create dramatic pressure shifts on the inside.
Definitely a strange feeling!
Later on, we visited another famous Niuean dive site called Snake Gully. This site is exactly how it sounds—it was sea snake soup!
Sea krait are known to be extremely venomous. One bite could kill a human. Luckily, they are quite docile, even playful! They like to pop in for a hello and follow you around as you dive. Their behavior added to the excitement of every dive we went on.
Here’s a short video of the many sea krait following us and interacting with us on our dives:
Snake Gully was one of my favorite dive sites because of the diversity of the fish in the area.
In addition to all the sea krait, we saw tons of large cornetfish. I love these guys because they are usually happy to stick around for a photo shoot.
They are a lot larger than you can tell from a photo of it on its own so I got a shot of Jono next to one for size.
There were also massive schools of barracuda around Snake Gully.
Looking at them from a distance, the barracuda almost appear to be a single unit. They look like one huge fish or marine animal instead of a whole school of them.
At one point we spotted a huge spotted puffer fish. It was deflated at the time, but I imagine it would have puffed up to a hilariously large size if we had annoyed him a bit.
He was smart to swim away!
Caves and Catacombs
The reef in Niue is fairly colorless at most of the dive sites. Sadly, patches of it were destroyed during Cyclone Heta in 2004.
Despite the damage, there manages to be some interesting coral there. There’s also plenty of awesomely large and small fish and colorful giant clams around.
We even spotted an expertly camouflaged rock fish at one dive site.
Can you see it?
But one of the major parts of diving in Niue that made it worthwhile was the intricately carved passages winding through the coral.
Out of the whole diving experience, the highlight for me was weaving between all of the crevices.
Another dive site—the catacombs—right next to Snake Gully was really fun to dive. Light passing down into the passageways from above made for a beautiful light-dark effect.
Apologies in advance for this next photo. I really want to show you what it looked like passing through and under some of the underwater archways in Niue.
Debris in the water from the waves crashing onto the rock in this area paired with the low-light conditions sometimes had a blurring effect on my camera. Sorry for that!
I hope you'll be satisfied with what I was able to capture anyway! :)
I loved following my dive companions through algae-encrusted coral valleys and through holes in the rock.
The rock—upon closer look—was actually rather brightly colored in places!
The experience was like making our way through a great maze in an underwater kingdom. I was prepared to find King Triton around any corner.
And now I’ll hit you with yet another video! This one highlights the caves and passageways we made our way through at the dive site outside of Bubble Cave.
Niue definitely has some unique features for diving.
The sea snakes and intricate caves and caverns are so fun and unlike anything I had experienced before. I loved every minute of it!
Next week, I’ll be posting about the land variety of caves and other distinctive rock features on Niue Island. From massive sea archways to hazardous black pinnacles, you’re not going to believe the beauty Niue offers along its rocky shoreline!
In the meantime, have you seen my post all about snorkeling in Niue?
Snorkeling is the best activity if you prefer to see the more colorful underwater features of Niue. There's even a sneak peak at one of the caves I’ll be delving into in my next post!