Maré Island is a hidden gem amongst the French islands of New Caledonia. Find unspoilt beaches and little more to do than relax on the white sand or perhaps a little gentle snorkelling.
If you want to explore the untouched beauty of the island you can head off to buy incredibly fresh produce in the local markets for a seafood lunch on the beach. Sounds good, doesn´t it?
The island is often referred to as L’iÎle de Maré because it is a French overseas territory. It is located in New Caledonia’s archipelago and part of the Loyalty Islands Province, northeast of the mainland.
Just 42 km long and 16 to 33 km wide in places, this coral atoll surrounds a former lagoon. The higher ground is made up of a honeycomb of pools and caves. Cliffs overlook many of the beaches, including the natural beach of Yejele. Tadin is the largest town and serves as the administrative centre for the commune of Maré. Characteristic Araucaria trees protect the flatlands near to the beach areas.
The total population is around 6,900, mostly of Melanesian heritage. Few Europeans live here. Nengoné is the native tongue – widely spoken on various islands from Madagascar to Indonesia and on some of the Pacific islands. The island is still very much tribal, led by 29 chieftains. It is far less “French” than many of the other New Caledonian islands.
The first sighting of Maré was in 1793 when William Raven, a British colonial was sailing to Batavia from Sydney. He was on his way to procure provisions for the penal colony in Australia.
Maréans are generally Christians because missionaries made efforts to convert the local tribes during the 19-century. Throughout the centuries, battles over the territory interrupted the island’s peace. In more recent times, a Socialist National Liberation front began here, seeking independence from France. In 1988, the signing of the “Matignon Accords” eventually brought peace to the island. However, two of the leaders were assassinated before the treaty came into force.
The reef-like terrain on some of the island means that often travelling on foot (wearing thick-soled sandals) is the best way to explore. Surprisingly, there are also local buses which will take you to each town and to the local markets to select from the island’s wealth of fresh produce, seafood and local arts and crafts. There are places to stay on Maré, but often visiting the island by boat as a day trip from more modern islands in New Caledonia is a great option.
The tropical island weather generally equates to two seasons. December to March is the hot season – humid and rainy with high temperatures around 33ºC. There is a pleasant breeze, and the thunderstorms break up the heat from the sun. Rainfall is abundant. The cool season, from June to September, has little rain and temperatures from as low as 10ºC up to 24ºC. The breeze blows stronger during these months. In between, April, May, October and November usually have temperatures around 26ºC with rain showers, especially in the higher areas.