A pristine paradise in New Caledonia
New Caledonia’s longest beach, Fayaoué Beach, can be found on the island of Ouvéa – a stunning 22km of unbroken, powder-white sand where crystal waters, rich in both marine and reef biodiversity, make for excellent snorkelling and diving. Head to Mio Palmo Piongée, a diving club surrounded by the coral reef, chalk cliffs and turquoise lagoon to see green turtles, manta rays, humphead Maori wrasses, parrotfish, surgeonfish and sharks, and on the external reef slopes, gorgonian coral, crinoids and other bouquets of alcyonarian coral.
The approximately 4,300 residents of Ouvéa draw their origins from both Melanesian and Polynesian roots, and for this reason two languages are spoken in Ouvéa – Iaaï, a kanak language and faga-uvea, a language of Polynesian origin. The Polynesian influence is visible in the inhabitants’ physical appearance as well as their dancing. This is also the reason their huts are square, unlike the round huts found in on the other islands.
Maré is the southernmost and highest of the Loyalty Islands. Made up of five coral layers built up on each other, this wild beauty has idyllic beaches contrasting with towering cliffs, basalt rocks and deep dusky forests. When it comes to tourism, Maré is the least equipped island of the three, with only a few tribal accommodations available. Maré people are less infused with commercial motives and it is up to the traveller to initiate contact with the local people.
Wabao Bay in the Wabao District is home to some of the finest beaches on Maré – the perfect spot to unwind and forget your urban existence. At the very south of the island, the Eni District, is home to just one tribe with around 350 inhabitants. In 1995 the first gîte (a rental holiday home), Waterloo, was opened here. It’s still the only place you can stay in the Eni District, offering travellers a first-hand opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the kanak way of life.
Each of the three island-communes is accessible by plane from New Caledonia’s capital, Noumea – with less than an hour’s flight time. Lifou and Maré can also be reached by high-speed boat from Noumea which takes approximately four hours.
New Caledonia enjoys more than 200 sunny days a year and is pleasant to visit year round. October to February is especially lovely with long warm days and very little rain.