P&O Cruises made its maiden call to the island of Mare last month, and the Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl will visit 14 times in the coming year. The cruise line has previously included stops in Noumea and Lifou, but this is a new port of call in the Loyalty Islands. (Lifou, Ouvea and Mare are the three main islands in the Loyalty group). Passengers on board the ships calling on Mare will savour a day on this remote and relatively pristine slice of heaven.
About 40km long and 30km wide, the coral atoll has a blend of chic French and casual Kanak culture. There are stalls selling handicrafts and you can swim in the clear waters of the bay.
For cruise visitors, the classic white sand beaches such as Yejele Beach are a drawcard.
The beaches with their backdrops of coconut palms and towering pines have plenty of colourful coral and sealife including turtles for snorkellers to discover.
Mare also has what residents call a natural aquarium. It is a large pool of shallow water, full of fish and turtles, cut off from the ocean by rock formations but which are replenished regularly from a subterranean source.
P&O is working with local officials to safeguard the natural aquarium so that passengers can appreciate it without harming it. ( This includes a no-swimming policy and plans for a viewing boardwalk.)