|WALLIS AND FUTUNA
The island of Futuna was discovered in 1616 by the Dutch and Wallis by the British in 1767, but it was the French who were the first to settle there and the islands are now a French overseas territory.
This group of three volcanic tropical islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean about one third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii and halfway between the islands of Fiji and Samoa.
The most populated of the islands is Wallis where the capital of Mata-Utu is located. Low lying Wallis has many crater lakes dotting its landscape and is surrounded by a lagoon.
Futuna is more mountainous and has no lakes, but does have fresh water springs. Mountainous Alofi is the only uninhabited island (due in part to no fresh water but also reportedly thanks to a cannibal raid from Futuna in the 19th century!).
Once, the hills were covered in tropical forest but due to deforestation only small portions of the forests still exist making the islands prone to erosion. The centre of Wallis island is semi-desert. Fringing reefs surround the islands.
The culture is typically Polynesian with strong traditions of dance and music. They also have a distinct French flavour
When to go
The weather on the islands is tropical with a hot rainy season from November to April. Rainfall is high as is the humidity. Cyclones can also occur during this period.
From May to October the weather is drier and less hot with pleasant cooling sea breezes.
Being on a fault line, the islands do experience earthquakes from time to time.
How to get there
There are weekly and bi-weekly flights to Wallis from Fiji, Tahiti and New Caledonia via the New Caledonian airline, Aircalin. From Wallis there is a domestic flight to Futuna which only has an unpaved landing strip.
There is a great deal of local travel between the three French territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, and consequently flights are frequently booked up well in advance.
A cheaper option for those who plan on visiting a number of Pacific destinations is to get a "Visit The South Pacific" airpass.
There are two main ports in the territory, but no regular passenger boats to the islands. There is however talk of introducing a catamaran service in the future.
Where to stay
There are a number of small hotels on both the islands. However, due to a shortage of rooms advance booking is important to avoid disappointment.
There are also some guesthouses which are slightly cheaper and self catering beach Fales can be rented.
What to see
Part of the attraction of these islands is that they are so far off the beaten trail that those who do arrive are among only a handful of tourists every year to get there. These are working islands and tourism really does not exist. The best thing to do is simply kick back and relax, although with the cost of living being fairly high, prices may be enough to stress you out all over again.
The islands can be explored on foot or horseback or you can hire a bicycle, scooter or car. There is also a boat which goes round some of the smaller islands allowing you to see the many sea birds that nest on the islets.
Of all the islands,
Wallis is the most developed and boasts a disco, restaurants and even a shopping centre.
The King's Palace is here, as are a small cathedral and a number of churches. The islanders are devout Catholics and the churches on both islands are beautiful.
Archaeological sites such as Talietumu, a beautifully restored fortified Tongan settlement towards the south of the island, are well worth a visit.
Wallis has few beache,s but the uninhabited islets just off its coast are perfect for spending a day sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. It has many crater lakes from its volcanic past including the almost perfectly circular Lake Lalolalo.
On Futuna the people still live a traditional subsistence lifestyle of fishing and farming. Oceania's patron saint was rather unfortunately clubbed to death here and relics such as his clothes and even the war club used to kill him are displayed in the church named after him, Pierre Chanel Church.
You can take a day trip to the uninhabited island of Alofi, just 15 minutes by boat from the south east coast of Futuna. Boasting a picture postcard beach, this island is inhabited by 10,000 pigs. There are beach Fales (bungalows) available for rent for an overnight stay.
Wallis and Futuna
The Federated States of Micronesia
Northern Mariana Islands
Torres Strait Islands
South Pacific (Lonely Planet Travel Guides)
Tione Chinula, Geert Cole, Sally Dilon
Price: £11.21 (34% off list price)
This guide includes coverage of all the Pacific islands. It gives descriptions of canoe voyages taken by Pacific islanders in ancient times, and includes a special illustrated section on Pacific arts and artefacts.
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