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It’s time to step off the beaten path in the South Pacific and check out New Caledonia for this year, so let’s do a list of things to do while we’re in the sunny island nation. In retrospect, the South Pacific’s not exactly on the beaten path. It’s off-beat for the world, as it is. So… if it’s off-beat, what does that make New Caledonia, even more off the beaten path?
Who’s beating who on the path now? (We seem to have muddled our way down the rabbit hole here!)
Things to do in New Caledonia! Right, then. Since the South Pacific has now properly opened – the last country to remove restrictions was Solomon Islands – it’s been a while since most of the countries have had pre-COVID tourist numbers. And we’re here to remind our travellers that New Caledonia is still as lovely as ever. Possibly more since Nature has had a chance to rest up while we weren’t flying and all that. So today, we’re going on a not-so-short list of what interesting tours are on tap on a first-time holiday to New Caledonia.
One amongst the three biggest double barrier reef lagoons in the world, New Caledonia’s lagoon is a serial site of six distinct marine ‘clusters’, all which are worthy of spending days exploring. There are plenty of tour companies which organise a veritable litany of experiences for travellers out to see the lagoon’s loveliness. Off the top of our heads, we can safely recommend separate days for scuba-diving, snorkelling safaris, kayaking, jet-skiing, deep-sea fishing, and sailing. Oh dear, that’s almost a week gone. See what we’re talking about?
Travellers will come face to face with amazing coral reefs and acres of seagrass undulating in the clear waters of Ilot Mbe Kouen, Ilot Maitre, Ilot Amedee and more. Divers and snorkellers will swim by curious dugongs, pods of wild dolphins, sea turtles and schools of psychedelic coloured fish on an almost daily basis! It’s one of the reasons why UNESCO marked these sites as literal troves of biodiversity.
The island destination is a great option for hikes or tramps. New Zealand may lead with the most picturesque hiking trails in the world (we have a blog on it), but New Caledonia’s plains and steppes are just as striking and picturesque. The regions of Bourail and Dumbea have riveting landscapes and have several noteworthy trails. But for a truly rewarding challenge, there’s nothing like the Grande Randonnée trail, which traverses the country from north to south. It’s divided into several stages of 6-7 hours of walking each, and crosses valleys, coastline, dense forests, villages, lakes and waterfalls.
Did you know New Caledonia has its own cowboy culture? Honest! They’re called broussards (or ‘bushmen’, roughly translated) and an intrinsic part of the country’s culture. There’s a lot of the country that isn’t all that friendly to wheeled vehicles, and that’s why agricultural shows feature horse-riding skills by broussards, and why horse-riding tours simply make better sense to explore New Caledonia. On cross-country tours, don’t be surprised to run into galloping herds of wild horses. Hot tip: Sign up for a picnic and horse-ride exploration tour of the magnificent Lebris Peninsula. If you’re on a long-ish holiday here, ask one of the plantations if you can tag along for a day, though some horse-riding experience would be required.
Even if New Caledonia is in the South Pacific, the gastronomically inclined would find this destination a marvellous spot to test the old palate. From rural towns and Melanesian villages to Noumea’s glitz and high streets, this island destination blends its French savoir faire with island charm and comes up with something intimately New Caledonian. Food and wine tours in New Caledonia are a must and with just a little bit of effort, you can find an eclectic bunch of progressive dinners, food tasting and brunches to introduce you to New Caledonian cuisine.
Regardless of whether you’re staying at a five-star resorts (cough, cough… right this way for luxe New Caledonia hotel deals!) budget hotels (also this way for budget New Caledonia holidays!) or just camping out with friends (you need Google Maps?), it’s very easy to get kayaks from rentals or the resort’s activities desk. Armed with a fibreglass kayak and a paddle, you can explore some of South Pacific’s best and picturesque pocket-sized beaches, tiny islets, sand bars and caves in New Caledonia. Just carry your phone in a waterproof case, is all. Remember, water-resistant is not waterproof. It’s so irritating to get your phone water damaged and be without communications in a new country. Not cool, that. But we stray from the point. Check out the Blue River Provincial Park for some great kayaking adventures.
The Isle of Pines has been written about, quite enough and everyone who’s been there unequivocally feels it’s not enough. The visual incongruity of pine trees, which people normally associate with cold climates, and white sand beaches make for quite the stunning seascapes. Plus, crystal-clear waters and great swimming just add to the magic.
You can find several tour operators offering a range of island-hopping tours. Just get on any of them, really. New Caledonia has a great variety of outcrops and visual spectacles which deserve to be experienced up close and personal. You’ll be inundated with choice when it comes to tours of the Amedee lighthouse, but there’s plenty more like island-hopping tour of Loyalty Islands, Belep, a longer tour of South Islets, dedicated scuba-diving charters and the like.
The UNESCO has deemed this country as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ with many endemic flora and fauna. What that means is, since the country is very remote and removed from continental landmasses, it’s plant, bird and animal life has progressed and evolved to unseen and unheard-of degrees. It also has several distinct and wildly disparate ecological ‘biomes’ ranging from arid patches, shrublands, rainforests, wetlands, savannah and other marine habitats which support the wildlife, true for both land and marine species. Then, New Caledonia has scores of species which are unique to the country and can exist nowhere else. That’s why on birdwatching tours, travellers come up face to face with species like New Caledonia wattled bat, ornate flying foxes, the kagu – a flightless bird which is own genus and family, the New Caledonian crows, rare geckos, bats, sea snails, several brilliantly coloured pigeons, and … you can check Wiki, we just did.
And let us not even begin about the flora – the country has 3,380 endemic species contained within five (yes, five!) families – they grow nowhere else in the world! And speaking of flora, just put an aerial tour of New Caledonia’s Heart of Voh on your list. Google it, you’ll know why you’ll want to visit it. Jus kidding, here – you can read about it with all the pretty pictures you want in our blog Heart of Voh – Romance in Style. It’s just so beautiful.
Any first timer in New Caledonia should start with a walking tour of the country’s capital city, Noumea. Again, plenty of operators offer guides and they help – a running commentary of the city’s important cultural landmarks offer a brilliant insight into the tumultuous and rich history of Noumea and New Caledonia. It paves a good path on how and why this island nation is what it is.
The Tjibaou Cultural Centre and the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Art Museum offer first-timers as well as repeat visitors a great insight into the island’s Kanak culture, heritage, and history. It is named after the country’s freedom fighter Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who had a vision of bringing the New Caledonian culture to global attention. It’s radical design harks back to traditional Kanak values and beliefs and the building’s environment, habitats and relics are a treasure trove of history for the locals as well as visitors.
And it’s not like there’s a dearth of material talking about what we just did. We’re just reiterating what a lovely destination New Caledonia is – and now, with travel spooling back up, a New Caledonia holiday might just be what we need! Check out our other blogs on New Caledonia; if this blog did manage to convince you, for some obscure reason – check out the season’s best New Caledonia holiday deals! We really do have good deals. In addition to flights and stays, our New Caledonia holiday packages bundle in tours, transfers, meal plans and even all-inclusive deals. Plus, we often have exclusives – South Pacific holidays that you won’t find anywhere else, and that you can customise to your heart’s content by talking to our South Pacific Specialists. Or just have a chat with them about new travel ideas at 1300 991 751!
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