The lagoon of New Caledonia is the first in the world for extension and beauty, so in a vacation in this corner of the world excursions to the islands cannot be missed. There are many possible options: you can plan catamaran tours among many islands or you can focus on a single island and spend the whole day there, as in the case of Amédée Lighthouse Island (or Pharé Amédée in French). Let’s make a small introduction. We are not lovers of organized outings and trips tailor-made for tourists, we like to visit places without restrictions and away from groups of people, but in this case, given the difficulty in finding an independent transfer to the island, we decided to join us at the excursion managed by Mary D Entrerprises. Do you want to know how it went? Keep reading our article and we’ll reveal it to you.
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The Mary D provides 1 weekly excursion to the island, which takes place on Sunday (or at least that’s what happens in August, the culmination of the winter months); the company’s ships are very spacious, so it is difficult to incur in a sold out.
The day begins with the pick-up at your hotel by one of their shuttles and you are carried to the port at Baie de la Moselle, where the ship is docked. Once on board, the program of the day in multiple languages and colored bracelets are distributed; the aim of the bracelets is to sort the groups on the island and divide the people among the various activities. Obviously you are not obliged to participate in all the initiatives, you could also choose to spend the day lying on the beach or snorkeling and no one will disturb you. In fact, guests of Mary D will find umbrellas, deck chairs and sun beds available on the beach, which can be used freely.
Now we want to show you why this small uninhabited island, 24 km far from Nouméa, is worth a visit and then we will tell you why it is worth relying on the organized excursion of Mary D.
Let’s look in more detail at what you can see and do in the Amédée Lighthouse Island.
The island itself is very small, just 400 meters long and 270 meters wide, so it is not the main attraction for which one comes here, rather because of the turquoise waters and the coral reef that surround it. It is possible in fact to sight a great quantity of species of fish and aquatic plants and there are many sea turtles that swim undisturbed. This is possible thanks to the ban on fishing that was introduced in this part of the lagoon, where a special marine reserve was also established. In 2009 the Amédée Lighthouse Island and the surrounding lagoon were fully included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage.
The island owes its name to the huge structure that stands out among the vegetation. The construction of the lighthouse dates back to 1862, the year in which Mr. Rigolet, one of the engineers who had worked on the construction of the Eiffel Tower, began to devote himself to the project. A curious detail is that the lighthouse was designed and built entirely in France, then it was disassembled and moved to New Caledonia. The aim was to avoid the shipwrecks of the boats entering Nouméa.
The first lighting of the lighthouse took place on November 15th 1865 and since then illuminates the passage of Boulari, one of only 3 natural passages through the coral reef. The lighthouse, made entirely of metal, is 56 meters high (which makes it one of the tallest in the world) and the top can be reached by climbing the 247 steps of the internal spiral staircase, strictly barefoot. The view from the top is remarkable and pays for the little effort.
The tricot rayé
After the lighthouse, the island is famous for another bizarre characteristic: it is the ideal habitat for a small, friendly native guest, the tricot rayé (from the French literally “striped shirt”), a graceful little striped snake. You can meet it mainly in 3 colors: black and white, black and bronze/gold, black and blue (the last one is more difficult to see because it is active during the night).
Although it is one of the most poisonous species in the world, the size and shape of its head make it almost harmless to most terrestrial creatures: its jaw and teeth have developed to allow it to hunt eel fish and moray eels easily, which are its favorite prey. In the water it spends most of its day and returns to the land only to rest. Early in the morning it is difficult to see it because it is holed up in the holes of the ground, in the trunks of trees or under the brick, but as soon as the temperature is milder you will have to pay attention when you walk because you will find them everywhere. If you lay down a towel on the sand to sunbathe or take a nap, you will always have someone whatchful close to you, because if you are on its way, it could “jump over” you during its ride to the sea. Although it has a peaceful nature and it is not dangerous, be carefull and avoid touching it and grabbing it, despite the islanders do it.
The smallest post office in the world
It consists of a single letterbox and is the smallest “post office” in the world. At the small gift shop of the island you can buy the special stamp with the effigy of the lighthouse and affix your stamp before sending your postcard.
The glass bottom boat
In the cloudy winter days, when cool temperatures make the urge to dive and practice snorkeling pass, it can be useful to take advantage of this service to take a look at the bottom of the lagoon. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and is done in small groups (depending on the color of your bracelet). During the tour, food will be released through special ducts that will attract a large quantity of fish around and under the boat. In addition, you will also be able to see the many sea turtles that swim in the lagoon.
Lunch and local dances show
It is an activity reserved exclusively for Mary D guests. In an area used for catering, you will find a series of tables to enjoy the rich buffet lunch with local and international specialties (dishes based on coconut rice and noodles , fish and meat, salads).
The meal will be accompanied by the music show of the staff and the South Pacific dances performed by beautiful Melanesian girls (a suggestion for timid people: careful not to sit too close to the exhibition area if you do not want to be dragged and involved in dances). The dancers will alternate and change clothes continuously, they will use different tools and accessories to make the exhibition very dynamic, colorful and original. At the end of the lunch, coffee and tea with biscuits will be offered in the only bar of the island.
For Mary D guests everything is already included in the price: admission to the lighthouse (300 XPF value), boat tour, guided island tour (optional), lunch, dance show, the use of umbrellas and sun loungers on the beach. In addition, there are a series of demonstrations on local uses and customs, for example on techniques for climbing a palm or for opening a coconut. The only things to be paid will be the purchases in the souvenir shop and the rental of boards and paddles for water sports.
So, it is a day organized in all details, with many ideas for guests’ entertainment but also enough time to wander around the island, swim in the lagoon and sunbathe (paying attention to snakes!!). The return to Nouméa is scheduled for 4.30 pm, where the shuttles will wait for you to take you back to your hotel. Although it may seem early, remember that here the days are very short in August, it is full winter and it is the time when the sun begins to set and most of the activities and services cease.
Now, you will be curious to know the cost of this day. We have paid 14,000 XPF per person which corresponds to around 120€, it is an expensive price but it is the right one for all the services and the reserved attention from the Mary D staff, compared to what is the cost of living in New Caledonia. The organized outing has left us a beautiful and happy memory, the positivity transmitted by the staff has contributed to giving that bit of magic to this fantastic place. If we have not convinced you and you think you do not want to spend so much, rather you find an alternative way to reach the island but do not give up the visit because it is a truly enchanting and unreal place, it is absolutely the best excursion that can be made around Nouméa.
See you soon