With 195 countries in the world, it would be difficult for even the greatest geographer to know them all. That is why you shouldn’t feel bad if you have never heard of the country Niue (pronounced New-ay). It is a tiny island nation located in the South Pacific. The closest country is Tonga or for something larger, New Zealand. The country only has a population of 1,600 people and uses the New Zealand currency as its own. While the country is becoming well known for its limestone cliffs and coral reef, it will soon be known for something else, its sky.
With such a small population in such an isolated area of the world, Niue has opportunities that many countries do not. It has managed to develop its nation at a slow pace that has not allowed pollution to take over. It was because of this that it was recently awarded the title of a Dark Sky Place. This makes it the first country in the world to ever receive this award.
This small nation, the fifth smallest country in the world, is one of many in the South Pacific region. While countries like Fiji receive large tourist numbers during the year, it is tougher for these other countries. They are simply not as accessible as the more well-known countries because fewer flights go there and those that do are more expensive. For tourists to choose Niue over Fiji, there has to be a reason. The fact that it has now been awarded the title of a Dark Sky Place may provide the catalyst the country needed.
The country is now focusing on pushing Astro-Tourism as it hopes that many tourists will come for what may be the best place to view the sky in the world. Views from the island nation can provide detailed clarity of the Milky Way that most will never get the opportunity to see. The stars have always played an important role in the Niue people’s lives and they are delighted that they may now play a role in the future success of the country. Experts on the island are already offering night tours of the sky to provide information on constellations and their meaning.
Being recognized as a Dark Sky Place was not easy. While you might think that it is simply about showing the low levels of light pollution in the country, it took serious investment. The streetlights across the island had to be replaced and many private lighting had to be upgraded. The skies had to be given priority.
When you take the entire nation of Niue into account. 40% of the country is a marine reserve, there is also a forest conservation area. This shows the nation looks after its land, its water, and now its sky. This respect shown towards the environment is something that many nations can learn from and is one reason that many tourists are now putting Niue at the top of their holiday bucket list.
The boos comes at a good time too. For the last number of years, the population of Niue has been in serious decline. Most young people leave Niue to live in New Zealand as they see the opportunity to earn more money there. As the older population is not being replaced it means the population is falling dramatically. In the 1960s there was a population of around 5,000 people. If this trend continues there will be no one left on the island soon.
It is important to support these incredible places through tourism as best we can otherwise we may lose them completely. If you are considering the South Pacific for your next holiday, why not try Niue. Its dark sies and friendly people will be hard to find anywhere else.