Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
Ouvea - The Magic of the Loyalty Islands
From Lifou to Ouvea - 20 July 2013 - 56 miles
We arrived at the pass of Coetlogon in Ouvea's south-west coast at noon having left Baie de Santal in Lifou at 4:00 AM when it was still dark.
The pass is narrow but it's well marked. At noon visibility was perfect and we could make out the reef on both sides of the pass.
There was a small boat with divers in the reef next to Moule island and we thought for a moment to stop at the anchorage in the lagoon entrance (Ile Moule) to snorkel in the reef but at the end decided to keep going to Fayaoue as per original plan.
Once inside the lagoon, sailing is easy with no dangers if you keep at least 1.5 miles from the beach at about 10 meters depth, as per our sailing guide's advice. I was enjoying the scenery, the 25 km of a long beach with white sand surrounded by coconut trees and amazing turquoise waters while Oscar was busy cleaning the 2 big fishes he got underway from Lifou.
At Anchor in Fayaoue - 20 to 23 July - (20.38.70S - 166.32.18E)
Underway from Lifou: The Mahi-Mahi, The Tuna and The Enthusiastic Fisherman
The first fish was a 8.5 kg mahi-mahi enough for several dinners but then he decided to try another one to get a gift for the chief in Fayaoue and this time he got a 7 kg tuna. At this point, while he is busy cleaning the fish and the mess he is doing in the process, I'm sure he is wondering why he got so enthusiastic, for sure one fish was more than enough! On top of this he realizes now that there is no chief to see where we are going. Oh well, we got fish for the next 2 weeks' dinners (and probably lunches as well).
Like Fakarava and Toau in the Tuamotus or sweet Suvarov in the Cook Islands, Ouvea is indeed a special place.
Unlike Tuamotus or Cook Islands, coming to Ouvea is quite easy if you are sailing around New Caledonia, but even if you are not sailing, there are daily short flights from Noumea. Cost of accommodation might be an issue if you are not on your yacht but there are options with tribal 'gites' or tribal camping grounds or the very beautiful and luxurious Paradise resort, worthwhile checking.
We finally arrived to our destination, Fayaoue, and marveled at this superb place. Next day we rented a car. We didn't know where the rental car office was and went to the 'magazine' (the grocery store) to find out, using our best broken French. The lady at the store was very nice and she called the car rental for us using her excellent French. Five minutes later a car was at the shop's door for us.
Catholic Church in Fayaoue
We drove the one and only road, north to south. The island is a narrow strip along the lagoon on one side and the open seas on the other side. Some places you can see both shores at the same time.
At the north tip, in Saint Joseph, where there is another pretty Catholic Church, we took the Nimek tour with Mr Antoine. This is a wonderful tour, walking along the beach where few people visit. You see turtles, sharks, crabs, sea snails, a plant that releases a sun protection gel when you embed with sea water and much more.
Looking from Zenitude at Sports Nautiques house and looking from Sports Nautiques house to Zenitude
You walk crossing a pass when the tide is low and end up in a dream place where we stopped for a picnic. Antoine tells all kind of stories about Ouvea, its customs and believes from their ancestors, the flora and fauna of the coast, displacement of sand, the medicinal plants and he even gave us a lesson on how to fish with their typical net that we registered in film, something to watch if you click on the video below.
We had a fantastic day and highly recommend the tour if you come to Ouvea (M. Antoine 98 72 05). I should mention that Antoine's English is not so good but between our little French, his little English and the lovely couple from Tunisia that speaks both languages we actually had no linguistic issues.
Le Tour - Monsieur Antoine
We could have stayed in Ouvea for ages, but we had to keep moving and there was a good weather window coming up to make the 200 miles trip to Port Vila, so we got ready to leave Fayaoue with the idea of crossing the lagoon all the way to the North and either stop for a night at Ilots Deguala or just get out the pass between Deguala and Jumeaux and get underway to Vanuatu.