Nui Island consists of eleven main islets separated by passages through which the sea passes freely from ocean to lagoon. At low tide people can walk across these passages from islet to islet. The coral reef that links the islets is about 200 metres wide. The biggest opening in it is about 2 kilometres long, stretching from Tabontebike to Tehikiai on the western side of the island.
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Trees such as coconuts, breadfruit and pandanus, and food crops such as babai, tauroro and bero grow abundantly there while the lagoon, reef and ocean provide the people with an ample supply of fresh fish. The permanent settlement is on the main islet of Fenuatapu.
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The story is told on Nui that once a group of spirits who lived beyond the horizon decided to swim around the ocean. After they had gone hundreds of kilometres, their leader decided that they should rest. So he signalled for them to gather together in a circle. When they had rested he decided that they should mark the spot.
Accordingly, they all dived down to the ocean bed and started heaping up stones, mud and sand into piles that eventually appeared above the waves. They then swam on, and marked each resting spot in a similar manner.
In this way, Nui and many other islands were made. The matter in which they were made explains, it is said, why they are round in shape and have a lagoon in the middle.