Wallis and Futuna
In December 2012, cyclone Evan passed through the area. While the smaller of the two islands, Futuna, was relatively untouched, the damages to buildings and infrastructure on Wallis was extensive. It is common to see buildings stripped to nothing more than its frame, particularly in the village of Liku, located near the main centre of Mata-Utu. Some villages in the south are still (mid 2013) without telephone and internet.
Wallis and Futuna comprises two archipelagoes:
Hoorn Islands group (also known as the Futuna Islands, and as Îles Horne)
Alofi Island is the smaller of the two. According to legend it was as densely inhabited as Futuna up until the 19th century, when the Futuna people slaughtered and ate the population in a single raid.
Wallis Islands group (also known as ʻUvea, as is Wallis Island)
Wallis Island is surrounded by 15 smaller islands, all of which are uninhabited.
Although discovered by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands in 1842. In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory. There are still three ceremonial kingdoms within the territory: Alo, Sigave, Wallis.
The islands are volcanic in origin, with low hills, and fringing reefs. The highest point is Mont Singavi, at 765 m. The climate is tropical: hot, rainy season (November to April); cool, dry season (May to October); rains 2,500-3,000 mm per year (80% humidity); average temperature 26.6 degrees C.
During the 2000s, the islands witnessed a large exodus of its young working-aged population as many left for better work and study opportunities mostly in New Caledonia and France. A 2012 survey of the two islands estimated the population at approximately 12,000.
Uvea and Futuna each have an airport. The airport on Wallis (WLS) is located in the northern district of the island called Hihifo. Access to the airport is by the RT2 road. The only airline to serve the islands is Aircalin, and as such, travel to and from is reasonably expensive. Aircalin operates three flights a week between Noumea and 'Uvea. The flights on Saturday and Monday afternoons pass through Nadi (if you are travelling from Australia or New Zealand, it is highly recommended you fly to Fiji first as it is significantly cheaper than flying with Aircalin from Nouméa) and the early morning flight on Wednesday morning arrives directly from Noumea. The flights leaving Wallis are on the same days as the plane stops for little more than an hour before heading back to New Caledonia.
Aircalin offers flights between Wallis and Futuna several times a week. It is advisable to book in advance as seats are limited to no more than 18 on the short 50-minute flight.
The port of Mata-Utu is on Uvea. Leava (Sigave) is on Futuna. No commercial boat company exists, therefore travel to, from and between the two islands is exclusively by plane.
Uvea has 120km of roads, much of which are paved. All the main villages on Futuna can be accessed on paved but rough roads.
There is no public transport on the island, nor do taxis exist. If walking along the side of the road, it is highly likely locals will stop and ask if they can take you to your destination. Don't be alarmed if you are told to jump in the back of the pick-up as this type of travel is a common sight.
Car hire is available for 8,000CFP (€67) per day from the car yard located approximately 1km south of the airport along the RT2.
The collectivité recognises three official languages: French, Wallisian ('Uvean) and Futunian. About three quarters of the population in Wallis is bilingual. All official documents will be written first in French and then in the language of the island it is on.
English is not very widely spoken among the Wallisian population. Most of the French population will have at least basic conversational English. It is however, highly recommended to arrive with a working knowledge of the French language.
Banking facilities are limited, with no bank located on Futuna. Also, the BWF bank in Wallis will not directly change US $100 bills. Travelers are advised to do their currency exchanges in Noumea, New Caledonia or Nadi, Fiji prior to arrival.