TOP 3 THINGS TO DO ON THE LOYALTY ISLANDS
Somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific, off the coast of New Caledonia and far from congested mass tourism routes, lie three hidden pearls of pristine beauty, three islands of legend and tradition… The islands of Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa (indigenous names: Drehu, Nengone and Laii) make up the Loyalties, the trio of islands which lie roughly 190km to the east of the main New Caledonian island of Grand Terre.
Discover the top 3 things to do on each island to help you plan your next trip.
Lifou (Drehu in the local language), which also counts the tiny satellite island of Tiga (Toka) as part of its territory, is the largest of these islands and at 1146 square kilometres is officially the world’s largest atoll.
Top 3 things to do on Lifou
1. Dive in the crystal-clear, fish-rich waters of Lifou: with a sea life very diverse and colourful (rays, starfishes, reef sharks…), Lifou is definitely a paradise for divers and snorkelers. From beginners to experiences divers, everyone can explore the best diving spots on Lifou with local guides and professional instructors (more info)
2. Discover architecture: Did you know that Lifou was visited by French missionaries from the 1840s? Some relics of their passage still remain such as several 19th century Catholic church buildings. If you’re hooked on architecture and History, you should definitely stop off at The Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes which is one of them
3. Feast your eyes on Lifou’s gold, Vanilla: Vanilla cultivation was introduced to Lifou in 1860 from Madagascar. Today, over 120 producers and many planters supply 100% natural vanilla, which has become Lifou’s brown gold. There’s even a festival dedicated to this gift of nature: the Vanilla Festival, which celebrates each year this gift of nature. The tribe of Mou celebrates the harvest of the vanilla with traditional songs and dances and organises the visit of the vanilla plantation with tastings and food stalls. The tribes also welcome visitors to their villages, open their homes and explain their customs.
Maré (Nengone) is the easternmost island and its wild beauty is evident. Besides, the island’s exceptionally rich history, gives it a very specific identity. Discovering Maré is above all an inner experience, made up of meeting its people and natural wonders
Top 3 things to do on Maré
1. Experience Le Bone de la Léproserie: Maré has resplendent limestone caves to explore which are filled with crystaline waters. The most famous one is Le Bone de la Léproserie. It is a deep (160m!) limestone pool that has to be seen to be believed. This enormous hole in the limestone rock, hidden by thick vegetation, drops vertically to a pool of still water. It’s one of the largest drowned cavities in the world
2. Learn more about Kanak culture and art: Kanak culture is on show at the Centre Culturel Yeiwene Yeiwene notably through exhibitions of Kanak artefacts. Here, visitors will also discover stone ruins of peculiar origin that date back to 250AD… A return to the past!
3. Savour local produce during the Avocado Festival: Avocado Festival is an essential event in New Caledonia which showcases the fruit of the farmers’ work through a friendly event in order to establish the reputation of the Maré avocado, the green gold of the island, beyond the borders of this Loyalty island. As well as avocados, many organic fruits and vegetables such as Pawpaws, bananas, passionfruit, taros, yams, are offered on the exhibitors’ stalls. Yummy!
Top 3 things to do on Ouvea
1. Be part of the Lagoon Festival: The inhabitants of Ouvea the Loyalties enjoy to celebrate and the beauty of their island during local festivals such as the Lagoon festival. The idea of this festival is to promote all sea produce, while raising awareness among the public about environmental conservation, particularly of the lagoon. Musical groups, dance troops, fishing competition, water sport activities and many other entertainments take place during this Festival
2. Stop off at the coconut oil production plant: With a coconut grove estimated at over 3,000 ha, Ouvéa’s coconut oil production is extremely important to the islanders. After grinding and pressing, the coconuts are transformed into oil, used both as biofuel by the island’s electric power plant and as raw material for the production of soap. Discover all this amazing process during free visits
3. Hike along the Lekiny Cliffs: go for a stroll along the majestic Lekiny Cliffs. These very accessible cliffs are studded with beautiful caves. You can even enjoy some snorkelling at the end of the walk, right next to the cliffs
Last but not least, the Loyalty Islands offer the visitors the ultimate luxury: kilometres of beaches with spotless sand and perfect curves, as flawless as on the first day. The Loyalty Islands are indeed surrounded by crystal clear water beaches such as Luengoni Beach & Easo Beach (Lifou), Yejele Beach (Maré) and Mouli Beach (Ouvea). And that is only possible thanks to people (travellers included!) who treat nature with care and respect.
Now, the big question is: how to get to the Loyalty Islands?
It is actually pretty easy. Air Calédonie flies from Nouméa to Lifou, Maré, Ouvéa and Tiga everyday.
If you’d prefer to get there by boat, the Betico 2 fast ferry operates a triangular route between Nouméa, Lifou and Maré. No more excuse to skip this destination!