Ouvéa: The island closest to paradise
Can you get more beautiful than Ile des Pins? I didn’t think so. Ile des Pins, is after all, my favourite place in the world. But after a 2-day stay in Ouvéa (admittedly very short) at Christmas, I have to admit: Ouvéa is the “island closest to paradise”.
The turquoise blue of the lagoon and its many hues is unlike anything I’ve ever seen (except in 2006 [and then was reminded of it again in 2013!] – and again, I am a great lover of the turquoise waters found at Ile des Pins. The white-flour sand is exquisite – so very fine, so very soft (finer and softer than you’ll find on the other islands). If you take a tour of the island (offered by the hotel), you’ll see the range of blues found nowhere else in the world. If you walk to the Pont de Mouli (Mouli Bridge), just 10 minutes from the hotel, you will swim with rays, turtles and sharks. We also snorkeled with Picasso (trigger) fish and the little black and white-striped fish called “les desmoiselles”. Just remember to swim on the left-hand side of the bridge; the right-hand side is sacred and not to be ventured into.
Ouvéa is one of New Caledonia’s 3 Loyalty Islands, and probably the least visited of the 3. I say that, only due to the price of getting, staying and eating there.
- The 40-minute round-trip flight cost 23,650 CFP (€198 or AUD 301) for one adult.
- For the hotel (and there is just one hotel on the island: Paradis d’Ouvéa), which is on the luxury end, the nightly rate for 2 adults and 1 child (breakfast included) was 28,930 CFP (or €242 or AUD 368).
- The lunches/dinners ranged from 6,000-7,000 CFP (or €50-59 or AUD 80-89). You can get sandwiches and things at “snacks” which are cheaper, but the hotel does not offer sandwiches to take away on picnics.
- The Christmas eve (haute cuisine) dinner was a one-price menu of 11,933 (or €100 or AUD 152) per person, with a small discount for a child. Delicious, and offered with live entertainment of local music and a Melanesian dance performance, it was however limited for children (we could not order anything outside the set menu of foie gras, lobster, beef, etc. for our son whose tastes are much simpler).
With prices like these, Ouvéa is out of reach for large families or those on a budget.
This being said, if you live in or come to New Caledonia, and can afford a trip to Ouvéa, I highly recommend it – if only for its natural beauty. I was speechless our entire time there. How can something this extraordinary exist? Such blues, such whites, palms, coconuts, fresh air, unpolluted, pristine – and empty. So very few people shared the 25-kilometre-long beach with us. Why? Where were they?
The people (and there are only about 4,300 of them – 99% of them locals, 1% European) are friendly, and reserved. It was the first Loyalty Island, however, where I felt a division (the tourists stayed near the hotel and the locals in other parts). But I’ve heard that if you are able to spend more time and gain the trust of the locals, they are more than happy to speak with you about life on their island.
If we ever have the budget again, or can get a special deal on the flights/hotel, I’d like to drink in Ouvéa at least one more time in my lifetime. If only to confirm it wasn’t a dream.