August 19-24th, 2017
Trip to Ouvea, a beautiful tropical atoll belonging to New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean a few hours flight from Australia. The lagoon of Ouvea is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its scenic beauty and great biodiversity, but also for its 16 miles beach of pure white sand.
OUVEA TRAVEL GUIDE AND GENERAL INFO
Ouvea includes two major islands separated by a narrow channel and a number of "motu" (small islands), largely uninhabited and arranged in a circle along the outer circumference of the atoll. Ouvea is part of the Loyalty Islands, an archipelago that includes also Maré, Lifou and Tiga, and is located in the arm of sea that separates New Caledonia from Vanuatu, in the southern Pacific Ocean, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
How to get to Ouvea: Ouvea is just 40 minutes flight from Noumea with a turboprop aircraft provided by Air Caledonie several times per day, 7 days a week. For those who also want to visit Lifou, Air Loyauté provides flights between Loyalty Islands several times a week, without the need to route via Noumea. Ouvea can be reached in a fews hours also by a seasonal ferry service from Noumea and from other Loyalty Islands. Many tourists on a hurry, visit Ouvea by fully inclusive day tours from Noumea, sold by several travel agencies (this should be done only if you really have very short time available for your holiday, as to fully appreciate the beauty of the place and visit the various interesting spots, we suggest to stay at least 4 nights).
How to move around in Ouvea: The two main islands are connected together through a narrow bridge and are crossed longitudinally, for almost the whole length, by a paved road in fair conditions, long about 50 kilometers. Although most accommodations offer the possibility to rent a bike, due to the distances involved, we recommend to rent a car, making the reservation well in advance because once on place it's not easy to organize the rental and have the car delivered. One of the company providing cars in Ouvea is, for example, LO. K. Ouvéa. A normal sedan car is fine also for some of the unpaved roads, while for very remote places, it's best to hire a guide (this can be done through the help desk at your accommodation). The only way to get to outer small island, is by renting a boat with driver: this can be done by the staff at your accommodation as well.
Where to stay in Ouvea: Ouvea is not yet a destination targeted by mass tourism and therefore the places where to stay are not so much. Paradis d'Ouvea is a resort located in the most spectacular point of the island and despite being very expensive for the standard it offers, the tourists will appreciate the fantastic beach and lagoon all around. For those who want a cheaper structure, Hotel Le Beaupre offers spacious and comfortable bungalows, although distant from the major tourist attractions of Ouvea (it is assumed, however, that you will rent a car, so the problem does not really exist). For those who want to experience the life in a traditional Kanak hut, saving a lot of money and helping local people, it is possible to stay with families from different tribes (tribal accommodation).
Where to eat in Ouvea: Most of the accommodation facilities also offer a small restaurant, however the cost of the meals is generally very high compared to other parts of the world, and if you are not traveling alone, this could affect the travel budget really a lot. Therefore, we suggest to could consider shopping at the supermarket and cook in your bungalow, obviously as long as the accommodation (such as Hotel Le Beaupre) offers such facility. Regarding the variety of food, you should be aware that most products are imported and the variety is limited, especially for fruit and vegetables.
Tourist attractions in Ouvea:
- Lekiny bay: for those who love the beautiful seascapes, the junction point between the two main islands of Ouvea, could be one of the most spectacular places in the world. In this area, the 16 miles-long beach of Ouvea, culminate in a series of sandbars that penetrate the lagoon among psychedelic colors.
- Lekiny cliff: with the regress of the high tide, the bay of Lekiny changes continuously its color, until it is almost completely water-free at lowest tide. It is at this moment that it's possible to cross the lagoon on foot, up to Lekiny cliff, a wall of rock that seems to emerge from the sea like an immense ship. But watch the clock: you have to go back well before the high tide comes back!
- Northern Ouvea: one of the wildest places on the island, where you will not meet a soul for hours. An immense lagoon enclosed by forests of palms and mangroves, home to numerous baby sharks (subject to season) among a surreal landscape where the time seems frozen. For security reasons, as the place is very remote, the excursion should be organized only with a local guide.
- Tiberia beach: a beautiful beach surrounded by a cliff and ideal for some snorkeling
- Trou a Tortues and Le Trou Bleu: wide circular chasms, with a pool of brackish water at the bottom. Trou a Tortues is home to some sea turtles.
- Hulup caves: caves in the coral rock, with stalactites and stalagmites.
- Southern Ouvea: the southern end of Ouvea does not have sandy beaches, but the lagoon is interesting for the presence of natural pools.
- Outer islets: the uninhabited islets that surround the atoll can be reached by boat trips. Local guides offer excursions of different length and pic-nic options on deserted islands (the staff at your hotel will give you more details).
Well, let's now see in more detail the photos of these places, at least of the locations we had the opportunity to visit.
Ouvea is crossed by a paved road that stretches for about 50 kilometers along the whole length of the islands. Due to the involved distances between the various attractions and things to see in Ouvea, we recommend to rent a car well in advance before arriving. On this tourist map of Ouvea
, you can find all the places that shouldn't be missed.
there are various tribal villages, where houses and other buildings are based on the original Kanak architecture.
In Ouvea there are numerous Catholic churches, dating back to the colonial time. In the first picture, St. Joseph's Cathedral
dating back to 1912.
The supermarkets in Ouvea
are nothing more than small shacks that offer a rather limited choice of products, mainly canned. Surprisingly for a tropical island with a heavenly climate, it is very difficult to find fresh fruit and vegetables. In the second picture, the only fuel station on the island.
The Mouli Bridge
was built in 1984 to join the two main inhabited islands of Ouvea atoll. This is certainly the most spectacular place on Ouvea, where uninterrupted miles of fine white sand beach ends into two breathtakingly colored lagoons that merge through the narrow pass under the bridge.
The lagoon of Ouvea and the adjacent Lekiny bay
, having incredible colors that constantly change with the tides and the incidence of sunlight.
Ouvea has a beach
about 25 kilometers long and tens of meters wide, almost entirely deserted even in high season. An immense strip of sand fine like talcum powder and as white as snow, which can be walked barefoot for its whole length.
During the low tide, people can get to sandbars located a few hundred meters from the beach, walking barefoot in the lagoon. Most hotels on Ouvea will publish a weekly tide schedule, so visitors can easily plan the walks in the lagoon. The lagoon of Ouvea
has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the beautiful seascape and for the biodiversity.
The surreal and psychedelic colors of Ouvea lagoon
The bay of Lekiny
is a vast inlet that stretches for some kilometers in the heart of the island, and is bordered along the ocean side by a rocky cliff tens of meters high. During low tide, the bay is almost completely water-free and visitors can walk on the sandbars among natural pools, up to the cliff (but it's very important to keep an eye open on the tide schedule).
The same point of Lekiny bay, observed on the same day during low and high tides.
In Lekiny bay there are lot of violinist crabs, so called because they have a large claw hold like a violin.
A walk in Lekiny bay, up to the great cliff along the edge of the atoll. It is important to always keep an eye on the clock and return well before the high tide arrives, especially if you are carrying objects that can not get wet, like a camera.
Coral shoals, sometimes alive, in the bay of Lekiny.
After the beautiful hike, we move by car to the southern end of Ouvea, which is without sand, but with beautiful natural pools.
Another place not to be missed when visiting Ouvea, is Tiberia beach
(Plage de Tiberia), along the north-eastern coast of the island. This location is particularly recommended for snorkeling, due to the presence of lot of corals and fish.
The northern end of Ouvea offers a wild and deserted environment, where a large lagoon is home to numerous baby sharks. The area is very remote and it is better to visit it together with a local guide. The excursion can be booked through the help desk at your hotel.
The Trou a Tortues
and Le Trou Bleu
are chasms in the fossilized coral, which contain a natural pool of brackish water. In the Trou a Tortues you may see some sea turtles coming to the surface from time to time to breathe.
The hinterland of Ouvea, dominated by coconut palms and low vegetation mainly brown, as we visited the island in August, during the dry season.
Like other islands in the South Pacific, Ouvea is known for underground caves.
In Ouvea there are numerous Euphorbia cyathophora
, also known as "Poinsettia nana" or "fake Christmas star". The plant in fact (first photo) looks like a miniature Christmas star. In the second photo instead, the flowers of a Kalanchoe.
In Ouvea we chose to stay at the Hotel Le Beaupre
, a 2-star hotel not far from the airport. The bungalows, quite charming and equipped with a kitchen, are located a short distance from the beautiful beach that runs along the island's lagoon (the Mouli bridge and Lekiny bay, are less than 15 minutes by car).