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.