On our transpacific cruise on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, we made a port stop at Mare, New Caledonia. While this looks like the word for a female horse – a mare – it is actually pronounced Mar-ray. It’s also spelled with an accent mark over the e, Maré. Being a French overseas territory, New Caledonians speak French. Maré is the second largest of New Caledonia’s 4 Loyalty Islands. Lifou where we had our other port stop in New Caledonia is the biggest of the 4.
Maré is a tender port. On the ship they said there is nothing to do there other than buy their round trip pass for the shuttle to Yejele Beach. On our cruise that pass cost $16. It’s not that that’s a huge sum of money or anything, but spending the whole day on a beach with nearly the entire amount of passengers from the biggest cruise ship we’ve been on so far just didn’t sound appealing to us no matter how nice the beach is so we didn’t go there. Walking distance to the beach from the tender port is somewhere between 5 and 20 miles depending on the source of information. It’s on National Geographic’s list of top 5 beaches. We asked some of the people from our ship who went there how they liked it and they said it was lovely and big enough that it did not feel as crowded as they thought it would coming from a ship with over 3000 passengers.
Shuttling to the beach is not actually the only option for something to do on Maré . Although most of the shoreline has no water access, there are a couple ramps near the tender dock that lead to the water. One looks more like an old abandoned boat ramp then anything currently in use, but you never know.
The other is bigger, wider, and has a lot easier access out of the rocks which make it look far more likely to be currently in use as a boat launching ramp, though nobody went anywhere near it while we were there.
Exiting the tender we saw locals in a little shelter singing, with a donation jar out front. Beyond them a sign pointed the way to the shuttles and market.
Yes, there is something there besides the beach, a market right near the tender pier. Also a bar.
Although we were told there would be no tours on the island, it appears some locals have gotten enterprising enough to try and earn a bit of money when cruise ships come to town.
There was a little booth set up where locals offered several different van tours around the island for varying times, prices, and sites to see. They had one for $25 that would take people to the natural aquarium, a village, and a beach. We didn’t take the tour so I have no idea if that is the same beach where the shuttles go or a different one.
The road to the right out of the port area leads to a monument in the center of a roundabout and a memorial by the sea. The one by the sea commemorates people aboard a ship at the time it sailed away from the island never to be seen again. It’s pretty much a giant white square with names.
Near this monument one of the locals had scooters set up for people to rent. Their sign said they also rented cars and bicycles.
Continuing along the road next to the sea for half a kilometer or so brings people into a tiny town, which has some houses and a police station. Maré is a raised coral atoll with steep drops through craggy coral rocks to the sea along much of the shoreline.
There are coral reefs all along the shore so anywhere you can get down to the water in natural areas is good for snorkeling. There’s not a whole lot of places where you can access the water, but if you hike down the road a bit there are a few.
At about half a kilometer from the port area by the little town there is a place where we found some people who had climbed down the rocks into the sea to swim and snorkel. It’s at the spot where there’s a little pathway through the grass across the street from the driveway to a white house with a red roof. The people we saw there said the snorkeling was pretty good at that spot.
Not far from there, just past the police station and across from an old abandoned stone house, a crumbling concrete stairway leads to the sea in a small inlet through the coral rock. We used that entrance as a way to get to the water and go snorkeling. On the way in we met the local doctor donning his snorkel gear, and on the way out a passenger coming in from having swam a bit of a distance away from shore where he said the snorkeling was fantastic – even better than Jinek Bay on Lifou. We went out beyond the inlet, but stayed behind the rocks that sheltered the cove. We saw quite a lot of coral and fish, but did not see anything rivaling Jinek Bay so apparently we did not go out far enough to find the prime spot. Across the street some locals had coconuts for sale set up with straws for people to drink the coconut water inside.
If you walk farther down the road eventually there is a place that looks like a cemetery, but has just one crypt with another platform under construction. Beyond that at about 3.4 kilometers from the port area a natural aquarium sits in the trees just off the road. The walls are too steep to get in and out of it, but it is beautiful to see and the fish swim right up to the edge expecting food from people who stand there looking down. If you don’t mind a bit of a hike it’s worth seeing. The hike there has a lot of nice views of the shoreline.
Back on the ship we talked to a passenger who had walked all the way to the beach with a friend. He thought it was about 12K. The walk took them 2 ½ hours and they said there wasn’t much to see along the way beyond the natural aquarium. From the beach they were able to take the shuttle back for $5.