I am passionate about living life to its fullest. I love travelling, going on adventures and I enjoy the finer things in life.
Published January 7th 2013
Hidden gem in the South Pacific
At 42km long and 33km wide, Mare (pronounced Mar-ray) is the second largest of the four Loyalty Islands – Lifou, Ouvea and Tiga – in New Caledonia. It is more rustic and less developed than some other cruise ship ports of calls but this provides a unique cultural experience. Carnival Cruise Lines and P&O Cruise ships have only recently started sending their ships to Mare so it remains a hidden treasure – but one definitely worth exploring.
On Mare, the cruise ship docks at Tadine Bay where you will be transported onto the island via tender boats. You will be greeted with freshly picked palm leaves decorating the jetty and local women who sing traditional songs – a great way to provide us with a taste of their culture. Later on, there are traditional song and dance performed by local men and women.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to do within walking distance besides explore the markets set up by locals. The cruise lines have only one tour on offer – a $15 return trip by bus to Yedjele beach. Yedjele beach is yet another of the postcard perfect beaches that are found throughout the South Pacific Islands. It has crystal blue waters with powdery white sand that stretches for over a kilometre. You can easily spend days lounging around on this beach. There are locals that sell kebabs, lobsters and fresh coconuts, while the local children stare wide-eyed at these strange, foreign people. The wild dogs are also another attraction in themselves as they skip from person to person, enjoying the endless attention (and probably their share of free food!).
While sun-baking and swimming in Yedjele beach is a great way to spend a day, there is a more to Mare than just that. After disembarking from the tender boats, motorised scooters and mountain bikes can be hired from the locals. Motorised scooters costed $50 a day per person while the bicycles costed $20 per day per person. I personally suggest you hire the bicycles (you will need to work off your cruise meals somehow!) and explore parts of the island via that medium.
Cycling has many great benefits. In Mare, the roads are well-formed enough to ride safely on the mountain bikes (which are in very good condition). For the journey to Yedjele beach (and to the Petheon Caves to be mentioned later on), the ride is mostly beach side with lush, green trees lining the roads. Keep an eye out for the enormous spider webs in the trees and even better, check out the spiders themselves. It is pretty incredible! Also keep an eye out for on-coming traffic. In Mare, they drive on the right hand side of the road, so it does get pretty confusing. While riding, don't be alarmed if the locals driving past honk their horns. They use horns as a welcoming gesture and also tend to wave and yell out "hello" and "how are you?". Their friendly nature is very inviting and they are always willing to lend a hand.
A great place to travel to is the Petheon Caves in the District of Medu. Follow the buses to Yedjele beach and continue along that road until you reach Medu. These caves are slightly hidden and require you to walk down a small trail through the bushes. It is best to ask locals for directions to the caves. The sight and beauty of the caves is definitely worth the ride - click here for an incredible panoramic photo. The lush, green and tropical flora meets the deep blue of the fresh water and the majestic cave with its stalactites. Just float in the water and let the caves take your breath away or if you are feeling adventurous, climb up the rocks on the other side and jump into the refreshing water below. Either way, this cave is definitely worth all the pedalling. On the way back, stop by at Yedjele beach and cool off. By riding, you get the best of both worlds – the picturesque beach and the adventure of the caves.