You’re on a beautiful, remote island in the South Pacific. To most people, that would mean deserted beaches, overwater bungalows, pristine reefs, and quiet diving spots. But not you. You came all this way to see a lake.
That lake is Lake Lalolalo, a volcanic crater on Uvea, otherwise known as Wallis. Wallis is one of the three main islands that make up Wallis and Futuna, a French overseas collectivity. The islands—which are located near Tuvalu, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa—were first discovered by Dutch and British explorers. French Roman Catholic missionaries settled the islands in 1837; a treaty in the 1880s ceded control to France. Today, the islands maintain a great deal of autonomy and are still ruled by a king, whose land you are now trespassing on to find this amazing lake.
You set out from Ahoa, a small village on the western coast. You head south, first passing overgrown orchards, full of bananas, coconuts, and papayas, before reaching the dense jungle. Though it’s the dry season, when southeast trade winds keep the coast cool, there’s no relief this deep in the forest. You keep moving and waiting for a clearing ahead.
Finally, you start to see a break. As you get closer, the sheer, rocky cliffs come into view. Red walls fall nearly 100 feet into the mossy colored water. Lake Lalolalo is the largest lake on Uvea. Swamp harriers and Pacific reef herons fly overhead. Red-footed boobies squawk loudly. Pekas (flying foxes) dangle from the viney trees. Blind eels swim in the deep water, though you can’t see them. And at the bottom of the 260-foot lake, there might be equipment from World War II that the Americans dumped before leaving the island.
Eventually, you’ll return to the coast, shed your sweaty layers, and jump in the water. Or maybe you’ll find that perfect South Pacific beach on Faioe Island. But for now, you stand in awe of this perfectly circular lake that, for the moment, you have completely to yourself.