Active Travel Expert, Laura, experiences New Caledonia. Take a look at her report.
A little piece of France in the Pacific – New Caledonia.
The spoken language is French, the currency is Franc (XPF), two-pin European plugs are used, and escargots are on the menu, but we’re talking about a destination in the South-West Pacific. New Caledonia is a captivating place to visit; This French territory, located in Melanesia is a real melting pot of cultures, surrounded by the world largest lagoon. New Caledonia is full of nature and adventure, and I absolutely fell in love with the destination, the following are five reasons why…
New Caledonia is less than 3 hours flight from Auckland, one of the closest Pacific islands to New Zealand. With direct flights almost daily it’s an excellent location for a holiday, whether that be a long weekend away or an extended period. On arrival at Le Tontouta International Airport, this small yet modern airport runs efficiently, and you’ll be processed in no time. With transfers and rental cars readily available you will make it to the vibrant city centre of Noumea less than 50km away in no time. Take the 9 am flight, and you could be sitting by the beach, absorbing the unique French Riviera/Pacific vibe, sampling a cheese board with a glass of French wine in hand by lunchtime. Tempting ….
The food here is a massive drawcard; you’ll find French food at its best with a mix of traditional and modern cuisine. A high percentage of consumer goods here are imported from France, but a thriving agricultural industry ensures a healthy supply of reasonably priced local produce also. Being situated in the south pacific, there is also Melanesian and Asia flavours to be found.
Whether you are sitting in a bustling restaurant in Lemon bay or being served an intimate meal on the Isle of Pines, you’re guaranteed a delicious gastronomic experience.
In my experience the landscapes here are truly diverse; firstly the picture-perfect islands; the white sandy beaches and crystal clear water are a truly spectacular sight. Take a moment as you stroll the shores to truly appreciate the untouched natural beauty of the island beaches. In contrast, the rugged West Coast, or Cowboy County as it’s also known offers an arid, mountainous terrain with plenty of activities on offer helping you experience this region from its best vantage points. While the capital, Noumea is a cosmopolitan metropolis where high rise buildings line the shores of the bays and harbours surround the city scattered with a variety of restaurants and bars. Take some time while enjoying your morning coffee or evening cocktail to appreciate the varied landscapes.
If you are looking for action and adventure, New Caledonia has something for everyone. The world’s largest lagoon presents a remarkable playground for the water enthusiast: Diving/fishing/whale watching/sailing/kiteboarding/windsurfing/kayaking/jet skiing. While the land-based options are just as extensive; golf/mountain biking/hiking/horse riding/quad biking/paragliding/zip lining/sky diving. As well as the action and adventure there is plenty of other options too; Art Galleries / Museums / Markets / Theatre / Casino. Noumea has an action-packed events calendar with live music and festivals & fairs. While some activities should be pre-planned and booked in advance, I advise some time for spontaneity within your itinerary – who knows you may even end up playing petanque in the park with the locals!
Is there anything to see here? YES, there is so much to see! New Caledonia has the largest lagoon in the world and the second-largest barrier reef! The lagoon has a total surface area of around 24,000km₂ and is surrounded by almost 1,600km of reef which is home to approximately 350 species of coral and 1,600 species of fish. In 2008 this remarkable ecosystem was added to the Unesco World Heritage list. With a reef as healthy as this comes plenty of life.
In the short time, I was there I sighted, leopard sharks, uncountable reef sharks, a bull ray, banded sea snakes, electric clams, painted crays and even a pygmy sea horse. With plenty of large shoals passing by in the blue and a vast array of reef fish. (And groupers, lot of them! I was lucky enough to be there at the right time to experience the grouper spawning – very interesting experience).
The corals are vast and healthy; Gorgonian fans in the Isle of Pines were particularly impressive as were the hard corals in Bourail; the pastel colours are quite unique. The bommies and swim thoughts make for intriguing typography, with varying depths to suit all levels. While I didn’t get to experience the following first hand, you can also explore the wrecks of the region, swim with dugongs, and if you’re timings right, Mantas can be found and humpbacks sighted. The majority of dive operator’s use RIBS, a suitable vessel for the sites dived from day boats, but private liveaboard charters can also be arranged for individuals and small groups looking to head further out. Whether scuba diving, free diving or snorkelling, all are welcome and an enthralling experience awaits.
To book a beyond ordinary experience to New Caledonia including flights, transfers, accommodation and activities call our Dive Active Travel Expert Laura at travel&co NZ Toll-Free: 0800 555 035 or click here for our latest offers.