Maré, the island that speaks to your heart
The wild beauty of the scenery on Maré, the profound and almost mystical link binding Maré Islanders to their natural world and seen in their living traditions, and its exceptionally rich history, all give the island a special character guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on those who take the time to plumb its essence. Discovering Maré is above all about meeting its people and the feelings experienced…
Maré – Nengone in the local language – is the southernmost and highest of the Loyalty Islands, half the size of Lifou with an area of 650 km2. Its five layers of superimposed coral reach a height of almost 130 metres on the south coast. It has a wild beauty, with its deeply carved cliffs, basalt rocks and dark forests, and wonderful little creeks with fine sand nestling between rocky promontories and long undisturbed beaches fringed with coconut palms. The central plain, made up of the old lagoon, is dotted with numerous caves and natural freshwater or saltwater pools containing fish and turtles and featuring shades of blue and green not found anywhere else in the Loyalties.
Maré is divided into eight districts covering 29 tribal villages: Guahma, Tadine, Wabao, Eni, Médu, La Roche, Tawainêdre and Pénélo. The main activity of the 6,900 Maré Islanders is market gardening which supplies the whole of New Caledonia with fruit of unique colours and flavours. Avocados from Maré have acquired such a reputation that they are snapped up in Noumea, and a great festival is devoted to them every year on the island.
First christened Britannia, after the ship captained by William Raven who explored the area in 1803, Maré was long subject to the influence of British sailors, merchants and missionaries. This influence can still be found today in the Nengone language, which is strongly marked by English words and pronunciations. The first European to set foot on the island was Captain Butler of the Walpole in 1800. But it was not until four decades later that the first real contacts with the whites were established. From 1841 onwards the Reverend Murray spread Protestant values. His Catholic counterpart, the Reverend Beaulieu, did likewise for his creed: unrest continued until 1883. Maré Islanders have always integrated newcomers who settle on the island, which explains their obviously mixed origins and their open and sturdy character.