The most populous of the Loyalties, Lifou (Drehu) is the largest elevated atoll in the South Pacific, an island bigger than Tahiti or Samoa's Upolu. The cliffs and terraces of the various periods of geologic emergence are clearly visible from the air. Lifou is the most touristically developed of the three Loyalty Islands and many excellent snorkeling venues are accessible from shore. Some of the world's finest vanilla is grown here.
Some 9,000 people live on Lifou, and Drehu, the local language, is the most widely spoken of the Kanak languages. Wé, the main town, is the administrative center of the Loyalty Islands, but the three grand chiefs of Lifou reside at Nathalo, Drueulu, and Mu. Fao, a Polynesian Protestant missionary, arrived at Mu in 1842 and converted the local chief. When the Catholics landed after the French takeover in 1853, a rival chief in northern Lifou welcomed them, and a period of religious strife began that was finally settled when a French military expedition conquered Lifou in 1864.
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