Maré is a small raised coral atoll, one of the four Loyalty group islands and part of the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, in the South Pacific.
Until the mid 2000s very few people visited Maré. In the mid 2000s cruise ship companies came across the island and it is now a regular stop on South Pacific cruises, particularly those originating in Australia.
I visited on one of these cruises and thoroughly enjoyed my 8hrs, or so, stop on the island. To be honest, I held some trepidation in visiting the island in this manner wondering about the effect that the onslaught of 2000 plus visitors every week or so, all on a day trip, might be having on an island more accustomed to hosting the occasional visitor every blue moon.
I was extremely pleased to see that the impact on the island appeared to be minimal and that it has, at least to now, retained the rustic charm of other unspoilt Pacific islands with which I am more familiar.
Granted a few toilets have been added and the market is not as local as I would have hoped for but in the main this charming South Pacific paradise remains just that and, importantly, the price of a beer remains half what it is elsewhere in New Caledonia.
Maré is a very traditional Kanak (native people) island, at least at a local level. With a population of less than 7,000 it is divided into eight districts and 29 tribal villages, run by local chiefs. French influence here is very minimal – islanders drive on the right and they can speak French, though the local language prevails.
Rather ironically, being part of the Loyalty Group of islands the island is one of the most nationalist parts of the country. It has produced several important leaders of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) which seeks independence from France.One of these leaders was Yeiwene Yeiwene whose grave you can see on the island. No prizes for guessing which way the Maréans will vote if a countrywide referendum on severing ties with France proceeds, as planned, in 2018.
From a visitor perspective, those arriving on a cruise ship generally restrict themselves (due to time constraints) to the beautiful Yedjele beach and the area within the vicinity the landing port of Tadine – though getting to Yedjele does involve a scenic drive to the other side of the island. Much of this drive is along the most stunning of coastlines where sandy creeks nestle between rocky promontories and longer undisturbed powdery white sand beaches, lapped by perpetually warm crystal clear waters and fringed with coconut palms, provide that picture postcard perfect scene of the South Pacific with which I am sure my reader is familiar.
For those with more time and visiting the island independently this truly is the place to relax and the place to ‘find yourself’ – if such a place exists. Even if you don’t ‘find yourself’ here you can rest assured no-one else will find you here!
Many will say that there is nothing to do on Maré. Well, having now visited the island, I am proud to say that doing nothing suits me quite fine – if indeed a visit to Maré falls into that category.
I trust my reviews in this blog (Mare – Category) will entice one or more of my readers to, some day, visit the beautiful South Pacific Island of Mare or otherwise make for a good read for those who cannot do so.
This blog entry is the first of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Maré, New Caledonia. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Maré – Getting There And Getting Around.