The first and only time we have booked a tour onboard a cruise, was to the Vanilla Factory, Lifou, New Caledonia. A couple of things drew us to this tour, firstly, compared to all the other tours it seemed to be reasonably priced. Secondly, it sounded interesting and we thought would be a good way to have a drive over the island for a look around.
Turns out we were right on both counts. Our minibus took us through the little local townships via some of the island scenery on our way to the factory. Always fascinating to drive through another country and take a peek into their way of life. The most colourful looking area was the local cemetery where flowers adorned all the graves. Most of the traditional huts and houses, did not have windows. We did pass by a couple of the local schools, churches and a few villages, while the factory itself was down a grassy track, next to one of the vanilla farms.
We were escorted through the local farm by our two guides, where we saw the vanilla bean plants as pictured above. After an informative session on vanilla, everyone meandered their way through the farm track, stopping to take photos of the farms inhabitants, coconut crabs, a massive snake and the pigs.
After the farm tour, we entered the factory itself to see the vanilla process. Only eight people work in this factory at its peak. Somewhat surprising when this is a main factory for vanilla in the pacific area.
At the end of the factory tour we were given tastings of vanilla food and drink, a vanilla bean packet to take home, plus we could purchase from the small souvenir shop.
Outside the factory we were all amused by the farmers dog who spent his entire time tailing the goat who was tethered to a high running wire, then leaping in the air periodically to try and catch the buoys on the wire.