Loyalty Islands: Mare island
August 24-27th, 2017
Mare is a raised coral atoll belonging to New Caledonia and part of the Loyalty Islands. Still not targeted by mass tourism, the island offers a charming environment with breathtaking scenery among white sand beaches, turquoise lagoons and dramatic rocky cliffs.
MARE' - INFORMATION AND ESSENTIAL TRAVEL GUIDE
Maré is a raised atoll geologically very different from Ouvea and more similar to the bigger brother Lifou, in the Loyalty Islands. Unlike most of the raised atolls (basically, an atoll pushed upward by tectonic thrust), Mare has beautiful white beaches with lot of fine white sand, ending into lagoons with a stunning blue color. Of rather irregular shape, the atoll is about forty kilometers long, while at its largest point it is just over 33 kilometers wide. The average altitude is around 60 meters, with the slopes ending abruptly near the coast. Much of the island is dominated by a beautiful tropical forest that is home to many palm trees in addition to the characteristic Araucaria columnaris. Only a few areas are cultivated to grow vanilla, papayas and some vegetables. Maré is located in the Pacific Ocean, a couple of degrees north of the Tropic of Capricorn, in the stretch of sea that separates New Caledonia from Vanuatu.
How to get to Mare: The island is located about 40 minutes flight from Noumea, with Air Caledonie providing few flights every day by turboprop planes. For those who also want to visit Lifou, Air Loyauté provides a direct flight few times a week, without the need to route back to Noumea (the duration of the flight is about half an hour). Seasonally, limited ferry service is available from Noumea and Lifou.
How to move around in Mare: Maré has a network of paved roads in good conditions, for a total of more than 100 kilometers, in addition to some tracks going into the most remote areas. For the distance between the various attractions, it is advisable to rent the car (generally the hotel where you are staying can be of help on this, but we suggest to book the car together with the accommodation, as the availability is rather limited). Alternatively, the hotel may provide guided tours to most of the places.
Where to stay in Mare: the island of Maré is perhaps the less crowded place of whole New Caledonia and is largely unknown to mass tourism, so the availability of places where to stay is rather limited. Hotel Nengone Village is located in one of the most beautiful places of Maré, in front of a series of stunning beaches that end into a lagoon perfect to relax or to swim. The property has independent bungalows, some with sea view and direct access to the beach. For those who want cheaper accommodation in Maré, there are families that can accommodate tourists in basic facilities based on traditional Kanak architecture (tribal accommodation).
The main attractions in Mare' not to be missed are:
- Beach trail: Along the south west coast of Maré, a trail of about 4 kilometers that winds through palm and Araucaria trees, connects a series of beaches, among the most beautiful on the island. The trail, easy to hike, starts from Hotel Nengone Village and goes as far as Pede beach, beyond Cap Wabao. A series of short detours allow visitors to get to the beaches along the way.
- Aquarium Naturelle (natural aquarium): The Aquarium Naturelle is an incredible natural pool located a short distance from the south-west coast of Maré, fed by a channel in the rock ending into the sea. It is literally full of living corals and small tropical fishes.
- Trou de Bone: The Trou de Bone is a giant chasm, wide and deep tens of meters, located inland and surrounded by lush vegetation. At the bottom of the chasm there is a small lake of brackish water with an intense dark blue color.
- Le Saut du Guerrier: Along the north-eastern coast of Maré, a series of cliffs ending into the sea are dotted with caves where the waters take an intense blue color.
- Plage de Pede: Pede beach is the ideal place for snorkeling, among natural pools of intense turquoise blue color, surrounded by coral reefs.
- Plage de Patho-Kurine: The long beach of Patho and Kurine is located along the east coast of the island and offers a spectacular tropical landscape. Some stretches of the beach are privately owned and access is not authorized.
- La Baie des Tortues: Not well marked on tourist maps, this bay offers the opportunity to swim with turtles during the high tide. The hotel where you stay can give information on how to get there.
- Vanilla plantations: The cultivation of vanilla is an important source of income for the local people and some farms welcome visitors, to show how this activity is practiced in full respect of nature.
- Grottes de Pethoen: Along the southern coast of the island, the Pethoen Caves show the "heart" of the fossil coral rock that makes up this raised atoll, through small caverns with stalactites and stalagmites.
Now, let's see the pictures of the places we had the opportunity to visit:
has a network of paved roads, generally in good condition, to reach almost all the corners of the island. To visit the various attractions, a full day is required and this can be done by either car rental or guided tours (both options can be requested at the reception of the hotel where you are staying).
The beach trail starts from Hotel Nengone Village
and stretches for about 4 kilometers through a wonderful forest of Araucaria columnaris, touching several beaches almost always deserted.
The forest of Araucaria columnaris
on the island of Maré
, with trees tens of meters high, often centuries old. In the photo above, the red-colored resin that can sometimes be observed on the trunks of Araucaria.
A sea snake
. Although very poisonous, it is generally not dangerous for humans as it does not have a mouth suitable for biting our body.
Maré is a raised atoll
, pushed upwards from the surface of the sea, up to an altitude of 60-70 meters by the tectonic thrust. For this reason, even far from the coast, it is not difficult to come across fossils of corals embedded into limestone rocks.
The Aquarium Naturelle (natural aquarium
) is a large natural pool that communicates with the sea through a channel that ensures a constant exchange of water. This incredible natural aquarium is home to several species of live corals and many small tropical fishes.
The Trou de Bone
is located in the hinterland of the island and consists of an immense circular chasm in the heart of the rock, which houses on the bottom a brackish lagoon with an intense dark blue color.
Le Saut du Guerrier
is a steep cliff overlooking the sea, which reveals some caves where the water takes on an intense blue color.
offers access to a series of natural pools ideal for snorkeling.
During a trip to Maré
you should not miss the chance to visit a plantation of vanilla
, an orchid whose fragrant pod plays an important role in the economy of the island. The farms use natural and minimally invasive methods of cultivation, letting the plants of vanilla to climb on trunks of larger trees, just as they do in nature.
Mulching with coconuts protects younger vanilla plants, retaining moisture and protecting from weed.
After the flowering of vanilla
, the pod takes almost a year to grow and mature. After turning towards yellow, it is collected and left to dry, before proceeding with any processing or sale.
After the visit to the vanilla plantation
, a good snack is offered with teas, jams and fruit produced by the farm. This excursion can be organized directly from Nengone hotel.
For the very clear water and the proximity to the shore of many corals, the lagoon surrounding the island of Maré is particularly suitable for snorkeling
. Anemones, clown fish, giant shells and multicolored corals are just a small example of what can be seen in the sea of New Caledonia, particularly known for its great biodiversity
During our holiday in Maré we stayed at the Hotel Nengone Village
, a structure that offers cozy bungalows among the trees of Araucaria columnaris
, some with sea view and direct access to the beach.
The lagoon along the northern coast of the island of Maré, hardly accessible by car, seen from the Air Caledonie ATR-72, just before landing.