WALLIS AND FUTUNA
This French "overseas territory" is one of France's three remaining South Pacific colonies, the others being French Polynesia and New Caledonia. All use the same currency, the French Pacific franc. The 14,000 inhabitants of Wallis and Futuna islands are mostly Polynesians and the number of French expatriates is relatively small. Another 17,600 people from both islands live and work 2,500 km away in New Caledonia. The local economy dependents entirely on subsidies from France. Government salaries are higher than those paid in France itself and prices in shops on the islands are extremely high. The locals grow much of their food in their own gardens and receive remittances from relatives abroad. Many government services are provided free.
This territory lies halfway between Samoa and Fiji. The two main islands, Wallis and Futuna, are about 250 km apart, with Futuna being as close to Fiji's Vanua Levu as it is to Wallis. Wallis and Futuna are farther north than Fiji, resulting in hotter weather and a more humid climate. Between November and April, hurricanes often form in this area.
The New Caledonian airline, Aircalin, has direct flights to Wallis from Nouméa and Nadi. Futuna is accessible on a commuter flight from Wallis. Airfares are high and all flights are heavily booked by islanders resident in New Caledonia. There's no ferry service to these islands but yachts sometimes call on their way from Pago Pago to Fiji.
Wallis is fairly flat, with verdant volcanic hillsides rising gently to 145 meters and impressive freshwater crater lakes. The main island of the Wallis group, Uvéa, and 10 other volcanic islands in the eastern half of the lagoon are surrounded by a barrier reef bearing 12 smaller coral islands, many with fine beaches. Futuna and neighboring Alofi are mountainous, with Mt. Puke on Futuna reaching 524 meters. Though there are many freshwater springs on Futuna, Alofi two km to the southeast is uninhabited due to a lack of water. A reef fringes the sandy north coast of Alofi; the south coast features high cliffs. Futuna has no lagoon. Wallis is much more developed than Futuna, though you could hardly call it commercialized. Both islands have a few small hotels.
Not over a couple of dozen English speakers travel to these islands each year, which is part of their appeal. You get to see a part of the Pacific little known outside the French world. Few people speak English. Wallis has historical ties to Tonga and the remains of a fortified Tongan settlement in the south of Uvéa recall a Tongan invasion in the 15th century. The Futunans are related to the Samoans and many Samoan cultural attributes, including tapa making and kava drinking, are present. For the experienced traveler willing to spend the funds needed to visit a remote yet accessible corner of the Pacific, Wallis and Futuna is a unique choice.
SouthPacific.org's Wallis and Futuna Travel Guide has maps of Walls Island, Futuna and Alofi, Mata-Utu, and the territory as a whole. It's actually the updated Wallis and Futuna chapter from Moon Handbooks South Pacific and includes many photos and drawings from the author's personal collection. It's also a useful source of travel information.