Monday, November 4, 2013

Welcome to Lifou, our South Pacific Dream!

Sparkling shores of Easo

Our first stop in New Caledonia was at the town of Lifou on the island of Easo.  There is no deep-water slip for the cruise ship to touch land here, so the Volendam anchored out in the harbor; this required shore-goers to be ushered to the beach thru use of the ship's tender boats. 

Riding the tender boat
We had never done the tender boat thing before and were impressed with how expeditiously the cruise liner put these small craft into the water, and whisked everybody over to the island.  Each tender held about 60 people at a time, and with 4 operating tenders, it enabled the 1200 passengers aboard the Volendam to disembark to the island in short order.

The "Lifou Chorus Line" of ladies
welcomed us to their island

The locals greeted us warmly with a chorus line of colorfully-garbed native ladies chanting some lively indigenous  bebop, as we walked off the docking pier and onto the beach; and no one even tried to talk us into a taxi or a tour! 

Shimmering sands of Lifou

The beauty of the island of Easo is that there is very little here other than white sand beaches and sparkling clear water.  Definitely our kind of place!  The “town” of Lifou consisted of a couple of souvenir huts and one small café serving beer, soda, and cheeps (French fries).
Hiking the jungle of Easo to the Baie de Jinek

Feeling perkier today, we hiked uphill on the main road (actually, the only road!)  to Baie de Jinek, a snorkeling spot on the other side of the island.  This spot is sometimes referred to as the “Sea Aquarium,”  because it is rich in sea life, coral, and crystal clear waters. Unfortunately, it cost us a hefty $18/person to swim there, but the snorkeling was extraordinary! 

Incredible coral in the
"Sea Aquarium" at Baie de Jinek

From the pier in the sheltered cove we could see an abundance of coral, and some of the unusual fish swimming just a couple yards from the beach.  The waters were  teeming with a variety of wildlife. 

We spotted an unusually large "snorkel fish"
hovering on surface over the coral reef (posted by Frank)

We won’t try to identify them all, but the sea dazzled us with sea cucumbers, Parrot fish (Anne’s favorite), pig-snouted fish with bright blue stripes, pink fish with green stripes, long dart-like fish that reminded us of barracuda, and dozens more.

"Snorkel Boy!"
Stunning Lifou Harbor

After snorkeling for several hours (we lost all sense of time), we hiked up the mountainside to the Chapelle Notre Dame de Lourdes.  The chapel itself wasn’t the big draw in our estimation, but the top-down view of Lifou Harbor from this highest point on the island was unforgettable. 

M.S. Volendam anchored in the Lifou Harbor

From the high ground, the blue and green hues of the ocean and a commanding view of our cruise ship Volendam starkly positioned in the harbor, provided a memorable and striking view. 

Frank enjoying his "Number One" beer

After a fun day of snorkeling, we ended our day with a warm “Number One” beer at Lifou’s one and only café.  We reflected on today's activity, as we downed the local suds.  This is a true Gilligan’s Island, and if we ever had to be stranded on a tropical island, we hope it could be Easo, New Caledonia!  No stress, no worries, and lots of natural beauty everywhere' (and a good supply of Number One!!).

More pics:

With towel in hand, Frank
heads for the beach at Lifou
Pretty little Lifou Island Girl

Gorgeous coral and waters of Baie de Jinek
Little local bathing beauty
Walkway to the "Sea Aquarium"
At the end of the day, the tender boats
got hoisted back on to the ship 

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