During our 13 day Fiji cruise we stopped in New Caledonia and one island we visited was Lifou Island. Lifou Island (or Drehu in the local language) is the largest, most populous and most important island of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the South Pacific Ocean. Lifou is made up of Lifou Island, the largest and most heavily populated of the Loyalty Islands, its smaller neighbour Tiga Island, and several uninhabited islets in between these two. All these islands lie among the Loyalty Islands, 190 km (120 mi) to the northeast of New Caledonia’s mainland. At 1,146 km2 (442 sq mi), Lifou Island is the largest atoll in the world.
First discovered by the Frenchman Dumont d’Urville in 1857, it was soon visited by whalers and traders, and became a destination for Protestant and Catholic Missionaries out to save the local populations’ souls. In 1864 the islands were annexed by France who in turn established it as an Aboriginal Reserve as it was not believed suitable for extensive colonialization.
There were no harbour facilities here for large ships so to get to the island we had to use the cruise ship’s tenders which was only a 5 minute hop to the beautiful white sandy beach.
Irregular in shape, Lifou Island is 81 km (50 mi) long and 16 to 24 km (10 to 15 miles) wide. The island is flat with no hills or rivers, but has abundant vegetation, dense interior jungles, fertile soils, terraced cliffs and breath taking reefs and corals.
Lifou Island is a former coral atoll that was part of a submerged volcano. Nearly 2 million years ago, the island was uplifted to its present shape and elevation, today it sits at a mere 60m above sea level at its highest point. Since there are no rivers on Lifou, the water comes from rain that seeps through the calcareous soil and forms freshwater ponds.
With its rich Pacific waters fish including crab, lobster, turtle are in abundance, along with typical raised animals such as goat, pig and chicken. Crops include coconut, banana, taro, sweet potato, yam and vanilla. While the French introduction of coffee stayed on.
A short walk from the beach where we landed from the cruise ship tender took us to Notre Dame de Lourdes church which sits on the top of the hill and oofered wonderful views over the bay where the cruise ship was anchored. The place was full of butterflies flying around all the trees and bushes …. so all the small spots on my photographs are not sensor dust …. it’s butterflies!
On the other side of the island there was a wonderful snorkelling area and the locals were already cashing in on this charging $5 for entry as well as renting snorkelling gear.
A walk along the beach in the opposite direction from the small pier where we landed brought you to a large cross pointing out towards the sea and a short walk from this was the St. Francois-Xavier church, a wonderful old church with a small cemetery next to it.
A number of traditional “beehive” shaped houses could be seen in the village.
Before going back to the ship we had a welcome swim in the warm, clear sea at the beach.
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
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