When you say New Caledonia do you think of endless beaches surrounded by gleaming lagoons with incredible shades of blue, green and turquoise? New Caledonia is an adventurer’s dream come true with activities such as diving, hiking, diverse water-sports, horse riding, whale watching, to name just a few. New Caledonia is still a French territory, so there is a strong French influence in its history, food and language, however, visitors will be pleased to see that the indigenous people, the Kanak, still proudly hold their traditions in the city. However, if you want an authentic experience it is better to go to more remote areas. In the touristy areas, you will have no problem talking to people in English, but outside this area, French is usually spoken, so make sure you bring along your French dictionary. Another thing that you should know is that New Caledonia doesn’t use Euro as a currency but Pacific Franc or CFP (Comptoirs Français du Pacifique). The conversion rate is quite high, that’s why the prices are a little bit higher so if you are on a budget, handle your money with care. There are so many fantastic things to do in New Caledonia that you either need a couple of trips to get everything done or a really long one. Regardless of which option you choose, I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in New Caledonia.
How to get to New Caledonia?
The most convenient route to fly to New Caledonia from Europe is via Australia or Japan. Local airline AirCalin runs daily flights connecting Tokyo and Osaka in Japan and Brisbane, Sydney and Camberra in Australia to La Tontouta International Airport in Nouméa, New Caledonia. From Europe, Air Calin has a partnership with Air France for the best flight times and only one layover, in Japan.
Another option for reaching New Caledonia is by cruise ship. During the Australian spring and summer months of September through to February there are weekly cruise ship departures from both Brisbane and Sydney. P&O Australia and Royal Caribbean are two cruise lines that depart from these ports regularly. The frequency of these cruises makes them a very affordable and therefore popular option. It is important to note that cruises departing from any Australian port to New Caledonia will require a visa.
The best part of visiting New Caledonia from Europe is that for a vacation (under 90 days), you don’t need a visa, only a passport with 6 months validity beyond the duration of your stay and at least one blank page required for the entry and exit stamps.
What to do in New Caledonia?
Get a guided tour to see the reef and the wildlife
New Caledonia is famous for its barrier reef which is the longest continuous barrier reef in the world and the second largest after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. So, if you are a nature lover you absolutely cannot miss this. I recommend a guided tour as they offer many activities at acceptable prices (a half a day guided tour will start at 40€). You will be able to go snorkeling or scuba diving, observe the colorful marine life along the coral reef, swim with the sea turtles, enjoy the white sand beaches and explore the beautiful vegetation found on the island. All of this under expert care and guidance.
Amedee is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world, standing at 56 meters, offering its visitors an impressive panoramic view. It has been lighting the way for ships since 1865, when, after 10 months of intense work, it was finally assembled on Amedee Island. The lighthouse was built in Paris, where it stood in all its glory for 2 years. Then, in 1862, it was dismantled in 1.265 pieces and shipped to New Caledonia. Amedee Lighthouse is a must see, but make sure you prepare yourself for the long climb to the top (there are 247 steps to the top).
Go whale watching in the southern lagoon
I would call this, without being too dramatic, the experience of a lifetime. If you happen to visit New Caledonia between the months of July and September, you have the chance of seeing these fascinating giants. Usually, the departure is from Port Moselle in Nouméa, early in the morning. The catamaran will take you to Prony Bay, where the scenery is breathtaking, to say the least. Here, you will almost certainly get to see the humpback whales. It is of the utmost importance that you do not disturb them as they are here to rest and give birth. However, the humpback whales are quite curious creatures so they sometimes come close to the boat.
The Heart of Voh
Nature is an amazing artist, and one such natural creation is The Heart of Voh. Situated near the town of Voh, this mangrove swamp has developed over time some remarkable natural designs. The most famous is a perfect heart shape, The Heart of Voh. There are 2 ways of seeing this splendid natural design. You can trek up the Mt Kathépaïk for a viewing point at a 400m altitude. Or, you can take an observation flight to see the heart from the sky.
Aquarium des Lagons Nouvelle Caledonie
If you want to learn more about New Caledonia’s marine life, or if you want to entertain the kids on a rainy day, then a trip to the Aquarium would be a great idea. It is not big but you and the family will surely be entertained for a couple of hours. It is also highly informative about the reefs, the coral and the creatures that inhabit it. The explanations are both in English and French.
La Piscine Naturelle from Iles des Pins
One of the best spots for snorkeling is La Piscine Naturelle, a pool of turquoise water which is protected from the sea by a narrow waterway. It is easily accessible, only a 20-minute walk from the car park. You will have to pay a small fee in order to enter this beautiful natural lagoon, but it’s well worth it. Make sure you bring your snorkeling gear as the water is teeming with a variety of tropical fish. Also, very important, make sure you have reef shoes as the bottom can be rocky and uneven in some parts.
The capital of New Caledonia, Nouméa, is also its biggest city. As you stroll through the colonial-style lanes, you will notice the French influence on the city but at the same time, combined with the Islander culture. It is really any culture lover’s dream to explore. The cosmopolitan capital sits on a large peninsula and offers visitors a variety of activities for all tastes. You will be able to enjoy the exquisite French cuisine while sipping on Bordeaux wines, go blow your savings on the latest Parisian fashion or simply walk around the city and admire the architecture and take a lot of photos, of course. Be sure to visit the Place des Cocotiers in central Nouméa, a beautiful spot with landscaped gardens not far from the waterfront. Nouméa is also the starting point of many guided tours, so keep your eyes and ears open for them.
Stay in a Kanak Village
There is no better way of immersing yourself in the local culture than actually living and eating with the aboriginals. There are plenty of guided tours available which offer a few days of hiking and trekking all the way to the villages where you will be given accommodation amongst the locals. Be ready to dance in a hula skirt, admire the tribal carvings and eat the traditional ‘bougna’ which is cooked in a ground oven. It will certainly be an experience like no other.
Even though New Caledonia may not be the cheapest holiday destination, it will absolutely be an unforgettable one. A lot of the sea creatures and animals found here are unique to the world so there’s no surprise that in 2008 New Caledonia’s reef has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding universal value. Most of the guides will stress the importance of preserving this natural wonder and being respectful towards it. So, pack your reef shoes, snorkeling gear, sea friendly sunscreen and bathing suit and get ready for the best nature has to offer.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post paid for by New Caledonia & Air Calin.
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