Lifou Island, New Caledonia, is a popular location for cruise’s sailing through the South Pacific. If you are thinking of, or have booked, a South Pacific cruise and are wondering what to expect from this island port, here are a few tips and ideas of things to see.
The island is quite small so a tender is required at this port, the view as you are anchored out at sea is that of a picturesque and quaint island that calls you from the ship.
We have been fortunate enough to visit on three occasions, each time we managed something new. So for a small island there is plenty to see and do. Here is our guide of things to do and see at Lifou Island.
Notre Dame de Lourdes
Upon arrival you will notice a small white church perched up on a hillside to the left. This is Notre Dame de Lourdes. Once off the tender walk straight up the hill through the markets and take the main road and head to the left.
You will walk past a few village houses and, if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time, a plethora of butterflies just begging to be chased and photographed by your youngsters. Ours had their water cups provided by the ship upon arrival that they used to catch and release.
At the end of the road you will come to a path of stairs which will take you up to the summit of the hill to where the quaint church is perched. It is a bit of a hike, but well worth the effort.
Visit the church and then take in the amazing scenery.
For those with a sense of adventure the local grotto is a must when at Lifou. Ship tours will not take you here, probably due to OH&S, but for those with a sense of adventure - it is worth a visit.
When you arrive at the island walk straight through the markets, past the transport and up to the main road. This time take a right turn and follow the road.
It is a good 8-10 minute walk past village houses until you reach a church on the right. Just past the church you will see a clearing and entry into jungle like terrain. A local will be standing near the entrance ready to take your entry fee.
The price is $10 AUD per person, however I have negotiated that down when doing a subsequent visit with a number of children.
Follow the path through the trees and down into the cave until you reach the grotto. When you reach it, you will not be disappointed. Crystal clear, beautiful water just begging you to take the plunge into.
The locals have set up some lighting inside the cave and one or two hang around to spectate the cruise passengers experience - but you are essentially on a self-tour at your own risk.
Snorkel Jinek Bay
There is some amazing coral and sea life to be seen at Jinek Bay - but you can only enter the water if you have a ticket. Just a short walk up the road from where your tender arrives, I can't tell you how many people I have seen turned away and disappointed as they didn't pre-arrange entry.
Tickets are $15 per person and must be pre-purchased from the ship in order to snorkel in the Bay. The locals will collect your timed ticket (although it is a loose timing - we went about 30 minutes early and it was ok), give you a piece of wool around your wrist as entry and away you go.
Take your own snorkel set from home (you can pick up a cheap set from Kmart for around $10) and enjoy the fascinating sea life in this Bay.
Melanesian Discovery Tour
On our most recent visit to the island we decided to do a P&O ship tour - Melanesian Discovery Tour. The tour took us via van to a local church - John the Baptist, where we were given a history of the island and invited to view the church.
Stop number two was a visit to a local parliament house. A large thatched roof hut we were invited to remove our shoes and take a seat on the floor whilst our guide explained the ins and outs of the government structure on the island.
Stop three was a walk to a local village where we watched a cooking demonstration of chicken and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and buried in the ground. A previously prepared meal was then shared amongst the group.
The tour was interesting, we got a good understanding of the make-up of the island, however priced at about $200AUD for the family, I was a bit disappointed that our only interactions with the locals was primarily one guide. I personally was hoping for a greeting from the villagers, a dance, ritual or the likes.
The far side of the island is the location for snorkelling. If you have packed your own snorkelling gear simply walk straight through the markets, take the main road to the left until you see the road veer off to the right.
We have not personally snorkelled here, the weather has not been great on our visits and the sea a bit too choppy. But if you get a clear day, the beach is within walking distance.
Even for those that don’t venture into the water, there is still opportunity to spot the sea turtles that frequent the waters here. The tender jetty is the perfect spot to get a glimpse of these beautiful and large creatures.
The water on Lifou is crystal clear so instead of just being mesmerised by the views as you arrive and depart, take some time to scan the waters and you may just be rewarded for it.
As with all the islands, you will have an opportunity to shop at local markets and have your hair braided. However a word of warning, this stop is one of the most expensive of the islands I have visited to get your hair braided. If your itinerary includes Mystery Island - wait until you are there if you are after some tropical braids.
Massages on Lifou are available upon arrival. Priced at AUD$10 per 10 minutes I found this to again be one of the more expensive islands to indulge. If you are heading to Mystery Island as part of your itinerary they have a much better set up and it is much cheaper.
Have you been to Lifou? Leave a comment on what you experienced on your visit. Or if you are heading here and have questions, feel free to ask.
Other blogs you may be interested in reading:
Family Cruise Holidays - 5 Helpful Tips
Look Out Zimmer Frame, Zip Lines Coming Through - Adventures at Sea
Magical Moreton Island
Santo Blue Lagoon
Penny - Itchy Feet Family