Niue, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of 1,500, is officially the first country to be named an International Dark Sky Place. Formally accredited by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Niue’s more populated western rim received International Dark Sky Community status while its central core and east coast (home to the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area) were named the world’s 11th International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Together, the two designations cover the entire island’s sky, land, and sea, making Niue the first “Dark Sky Nation” in the world.
Niue’s remote location in the South Pacific Ocean—about 1,491 miles northeast of New Zealand—isn’t the only reason it earned this rare designation. In order for Niue’s application to be approved by the IDA, the country had to make significant changes, including replacing all street lights on the island with bulbs that emit less light and upgrading lighting even at private homes, said Andre Siohane, director-general for the Ministry of Infrastructure and chair of the Niue Dark Sky Committee.
“Niue’s skies have been observed and appreciated for centuries,” Misa Kalutea, a Niuean elder and cultural guardian said in a statement. These traditions of star navigation and the regulation of life by lunar cycles and star positions have been passed down by community elders through the generations.
“The dark sky nation status adds new emphasis to the importance of our traditional knowledge, providing a reason for the retelling and sharing of this knowledge before it is lost,” Kalutea said.
Thankfully, the island doesn’t have to do much to set up stargazing spots for visitors. Felicity Bollen, the CEO of Niue Tourism, says that established whale-watching viewing sites throughout the island can easily double as stargazing spots for visitors and that guided astro-tours will be bookable by trained Niuean community members.
How do you get to Niue?
Air New Zealand makes the three-hour flight to Niue from Auckland twice a week. Before you arrive, you’ll need to arrange airport transfers through your hotel because there is no public transportation on the island, the tourism board says.
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