Our next port of call was Lifou. Both I and AS were very excited about this place as we had done some research beforehand and knew the things to do. We didn’t have a tour booked for Lifou as we wanted to tour the island ourselves.
Lifou is the largest atoll in the world – over 1,200 sq km – but it is still delightfully ‘remote’ and we had to drop anchor offshore and tender in.
It is so different visiting an island from a cruise ship as opposed to with another form of travel. Normally I would have done extensive research before going on a holiday but this time I didn’t do much as we were going on a cruise. But going on the tour in Noumea previous day we had the experience how tours normally were organised from inside the ship. If you go on a tour, you use Australian money and pay about 2 – 5 times as much as you would if going it by yourself. Because we’ve traveled quite a bit before, it sounded like a great idea to ditch the tour and make your own tracks. I was a bit worried but AS convinced me that it will all be good.
We had breakfast on the ship and waited for our tender boat to take us ashore. It was a beautiful sunny day and I couldn’t wait to go and swim in the water. As it looked like it might be a while before our number was called, we went to the top deck to take some photos.
From the deck of a cruise ship Lifou’s golden beach glows against the brightest of green backdrops, made up of coconut trees and a variety of smaller palms. The vegetation is so dense it blocks out everything behind.
Once we stepped on Lifou Island we knew we needed to find a church and a marine park. As we made our way to the church, we met a staff from a ship who told us that we were going the wrong direction and pointed out to the right one. It looked really far and it was getting hot. As we walked towards the direction pointed out by the ship staff we saw heaps of people coming back. I stopped one of them just to make sure we were heading in the right direction and luckily we were.
The white building we had seen from the ship turned out to be the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, built by Catholic missionaries in 1898. It takes about 25 minutes at a slow pace to get there because the weather is hot and humid year-round, but the climb is gradual, with only one steep section. We are told about 200 locals gather once a year for a mass to celebrate the founding of the church. Sweeping ocean views made it worth the climb on the brilliant, cloudless day, and the sea breeze has visitors cooled down in no time.
The church provides a 360 degree view of Lifou – a sight not to be missed. The descent takes half the time.
As we were making our way back we saw two local boys selling fresh coconut juice, we grabbed one each and it was nice and refreshing. I wished it was cold too but it was still worth spending $6 for 2. They also had a mud crab tied to a rock so we took some photo with it.
On the way back, we stopped at the beautiful Jinek Bay.
This snorkeling beach is renowned for its vast expanse of corals and wide variety of tropical fish. Couple this with warm and crystal clear water and this provides the perfect platform for a stunning afternoon of snorkeling. I really wanted to snorkel before but you need a permit and they were not selling any on site, we couldn’t get any permits on ship as they had run out of it. The place looked beautiful from the top itself and we learned that dozens of varieties of fish were found there, including angelfish, clownfish, lionfish, blue stripe snapper, grouper clownfish (Nemo) and butterfly fish.
As we couldn’t swim, we took as many photos as we could and decide to go and snorkel elsewhere on the Island.
As we were returning, we met a couple, table mates for dinner on the ship, who informed us that there was a beautiful cave on the other side of the Island. As we had plenty of time, we decided to go and check that out too.
We started walking up a hill along a road and passed a lot of people coming the other way. Everyone we met said that the place was really beautiful so we kept on walking. It was really hot, and we were a bit tired by then. We finally saw a church, and around the side were a few men sitting in front of a sign pointing toward the caves. As we walked toward the cave, the men came and asked if we were going inside. He wanted money and we managed to get a good price ($10) for the two of us to get in. He wanted more but we said that’s all we had and he lets us go on.
As we walked inside, I could see that the path was small and steep. The path got rockier and the trees bigger as we continued towards the cave. I was a bit sacred when we had to climb through tight spaces and down wet rocks.
I was thinking it was a bad idea when all I had to hold was a thick ship rope that lined the path.
Inside the cave, it was dark but there was a large pool of water below us. There were a few people already jumping into the pool and they told us the water was cold and invigorating but the pool was very deep. The rocks around the pool were limestone and when we shone the torch down we could see tunnels that seemed to go forever. Tree roots hung down from the rocks and the whole place was scary but beautiful.
I really wanted to jump into the pool as everyone seemed to be doing but we decided not to. We still stayed there for a while and took some photos before climbing up the same narrow path back to the top.
We headed back up the path back to the area so we could swim and snorkel. The beach area was very long so we picked one spot left and our belonging and went to snorkel. The water was warm but as the sand was too fine, you have to go a bit further out to see the beautiful corals and fishes.
As we were swimming, someone told us there were many turtles a few meters away but we didn’t really see them. Still, we managed to see lots of corals and fish and it was so much fun.
We took some nice shots with the Carnival Spirit in the background.
Afterwards we were tired so we went to the market where local crafts and colourful shirts and sarongs were on sale.
It was almost 4 pm by then and we both were starving so we made our way back to the tender boats to get back on ship
Our day on Lifou was amazing; even though we didn’t book the tours we were happy to discover so many things in one day.
Take care everyone ,
M from nepaliaustralian