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Wallis Island - unspoilt destination

By doina — last modified Nov 29, 2002 05:41 PM

Published: 2002-11-29 17:41:50
Countries: Wallis and Futuna

Wallis Island is about 300nm west of Samoa, is not often visited by cruising yachts and there is little tourism. We had no problems entering the pass at slack water. Being a French territory, the pass and channel to the town of Mata Uta was well buoyed. We anchored behind a reef off Mata Uta but the anchorage is exposed and there was an uncomfortable fetch across the lagoon, as it was blowing E20 knots. Going ashore in these conditions was difficult, being on a lee shore and having to tie our dinghy to the ship dock and climb a ladder some 10 to 12 feet high. But clearing in was quick and easy and there were no charges.

The anchorage on the SW side of Faioa Island is protected in easterly winds and quite beautiful. In settled weather it is possible to anchor off the islands to the east of Mata Uta but take care not to foul your tackle on coral heads. Only the east side of the main islands Ile Uvea, is navigable. The only semi-protected anchorage is in Gahi Bay, where we sought protection when the wind picked up to E20 to 30 knots.

In Gahi Bay we learned there are two sets of rules governing Wallis. We had asked at customs if we need permission to anchor anywhere and were told it was not necessary. But in Gahi Bay, with 6 yachts anchored, we were told that we had offended the chief by not asking permission to anchor in his bay. All crews were ordered to his house, where we apologised for our oversight and ignorance. Through an interpreter, the chief explained that Wallis is governed by the chiefs and that local customs take precedence over French rule. It is important to pay respect to the chief. We were not asked to give or pay anything and once the misunderstanding was resolved without bad feelings, the chief handed each person a can of fruit juice. The chief explained that previous yachties had thrown garbage into the bay and not respected proper use of water. He showed us where he wanted garbage disposed of and said we may have water for drinking purposes only.

Gahi village is typically Polynesian and still has some of the traditional oval houses with thatched roofs. Pigs, dogs and children roam and it was especially interesting watching the pigs and piglets rooting in the shallows at low tide. It is quite a hike into Mata Uta from Gahi, but people readily stopped to give us lifts and this was the best way to tour the island, as there are no buses or taxis. Wallisians are friendly but few spoke English.

In Mata Uta there are 2 very well stocked supermarkets and there are many smaller grocery stores all over the island. The only bank, charges 700CFP to exchange money and a new internet facility, charges 1000CFP per hour. Be sure to visit some of the impressive churches. Wallis Island is truly an unspoiled cruising destination.