Oceania : New Caledonia
New Caledonia (French:Nouvelle-Caledonie) is a dependent overseas territory of France lying in the western Pacific Ocean, in the Coral Sea, to the east of Australia and west of Vanuatu. The territory consists of the main island of Grand Terre, the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyaute), and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls.
New Caledonia offers stunning beaches, mountaintop fondue in chalets, camping, amazing snorkeling and diving, and fabulous French food.
New Caledonia includes:
- Grande Terre - The main island. It is one of the largest islands in the Pacific. The barrier reef lying off New Caledonia is second only to the Great Barrier reef in size.
The main tourist destinations are:
- Île de Pins - Was one of the few places in the Pacific with trees tall and sturdy enough to provide replacement masts for ships.
- Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyaute)
Ports and harbors
- Port Bousie
The people of New Caledonia are split into three major groups:
- the native Kanaks
- descendants of French prisoners and settlers
- French citizens working in Noumea
There is a general move towards independence in New Caledonia and it was decided in the Nouméa Accord that the territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence after 2014, at a time of its choosing.
Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was in the French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864.
The islands have been an overseas territory of France since 1956.
The 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands; formally under French law. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s seems to have dissipated. A referendum on independence was held in 1998 but did not pass; a new referendum is scheduled for 2014.
New Caledonia has a national holiday for Bastille Day on 14 July (1789)
New Caledonia has a semi-tropical climate, modified by southeast trade winds. It is often hot and humid in January and February. The islands are subject to tropical cyclones, most frequent from November to March. During winter (April to August) the daytime temperature is around 22 degrees. The water may still be warm, but it often feels too cool to really want to go swimming.
The main island of New Caledonia is one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean and its terrain consist of coastal plains with interior mountains. The highest point is Mont Panie (1,628 m).
Grand Terre is rich in minerals, and is an important source of many ores, mainly nickel and chromium. There is a mountainous interior green with subtropical foliage. The outlying islands are coral-based, and have stunning white sand, and sport palm trees.
New Caledonia has about 25% of the world's known nickel resources. In recent years, the economy has suffered because of depressed international demand for nickel, the principal source of export earnings. Only a small amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. In addition to nickel, the substantial financial support from France and tourism are keys to the health of the economy. The situation in 1998 was clouded by the spillover of financial problems in East Asia and by lower prices for nickel. Nickel prices jumped in 1999-2000, and large additions were made to capacity. Strikes in the building industry in 2001, which lasted four months, adversely affected many other sectors of the economy. French Government interests in the New Caledonian nickel industry are being transferred to local ownership.
- New Caledonia Airport (IATA: NOU) (ICAO: NWWW), in Païta, 52km northwest of the capital city of Noumea, (687) 35 11 18, [www.cci-nc.com/tontouta] Air France provides direct flights from Paris. Regular flights are available from Tokyo on Aircalin, as New Caledonia is very popular with the Japanese. Air New Zealand and Qantas also serve the airport. There are also flights from various Pacific nations, New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. However, there aren't many flights overall, so beware of availability. There is little or no competition on routes, so be very wary of high flight prices.
- Noumea-Magenta Airport (IATA: GEA) , 4 km from the city center, (687) 25 14 00. Serves all domestic flights within New Caledonia, such as the Loyalty Islands (Maré, Tiga, Lifou, Ouvéa), from Isle of Pines in the south to Belep Islands in the northern tip of the mainland as well as Koné and Koumac on the west coast and Touho on the east coast.
Noumea is a popular port of call for people sailing around the Pacific, though most dare not sail during cyclone season.
Rentals - cheapest are:
- Red point (requires drivers above 24 years of age)
By bus or taxi
The buses aren't too bad and go pretty much everywhere, but they aren't frequent. However, the buses are worth trying and will save you money. You can catch a bus that will take you very conveniently from the Baie Des Citrons to downtown Noumea that will cost 200CFP each way. This is a good alternative to a taxi. The bus that services this route is the No 1 Bus and it is green. This will assist you on your return to the Baie Des Citrons (and Anse Vata) since you will be looking for the Green Number 1 Bus. The bus ride takes about 15 to 20 minutes. A taxi for the same destination will cost approximately 850CFP each way, compared to 200CFP each way on the bus. Taxi's do not cruise the streets to pick up passengers as in other cities. They have to be telephoned to come to where you are. This makes the bus a good alternative because the journey time is not much longer than taking a taxi.
If you are in a hotel or other accommodation you just ask them to call you a taxi. The same applies in a store you are shopping at in Noumea. If you have just purchased something, even groceries in a small store they will be happy to call you a taxi.
It is possible, but not advised. Around celebrations there are many drunk drivers on the roads. Locals defer travel until daylight hours if possible because roads at night are so dangerous and few drivers carry sufficient insurance.
- Jean Marie Tjibaou Center, a gift from the French Government. The architect was Renzo Piano, an Italian architect.
- Botanical garden
- Wandering along the waterfront in Noumea - Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata.
- Snorkeling, diving, windsurfing
- Îlot Canard just outside the Anse Vata is a good place for beginners
- Aguille de Prony is an amazing underwater structure in the Prony bay south of Noumea
- relaxing, tanning, and generally doing nothing
- Baie des Citrons and the Anse Vata are common beaches at the Noumea peninsula
- Îlot Maitre has a resort. This can be reached by taxi boat from the Anse Vata, and by boat from the Baie de Mouselle
- Numerous other tourist resorts can be found throughout the Grande Terre and Île des Pins
- eating French and local cuisine
- hiking, camping
- Parc Rivière Bleu in the Yaté region south of Noumea
- Joining a hiking group is generally a good idea, since you then can really enjoy the great scenery without fear of getting lost, or having to stick with conventional tourist spots.... cat
- Yacht charter New Caledonia Windward Islands, one of the worlds largest yacht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to luxury yacht in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Operating from different offices worldwide (UK, USA, Honk Kong, Dubai, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland).
The official language is French, and it is difficult to find English speakers outside of Noumea. In Noumea, French, English, and Japanese are widely spoken at hotels, restaurants, and shops. To enjoy a place like this, you should really endeavor to learn some French.
The cartoon series La Brousse en Folie and Le Sentier Des Hommes by Bernard Berger will give you an insight in the local culture and tradition. The comics are written in French, the former imitating the local accent and grammar (or lack thereof)
Other than that, plenty of conventional souvenirs shops may be found throughout Noumea.
New Caledonia is very expensive, since much of the food needs to be imported. There is no culture of bargaining either and attempting such might cause offense.
- Bougna, a traditional meal among the native Melanesians, which consists of some form of meat, pork, chicken, fruitbat, crab, etc, along with roots such as yams and sweet potatoes. This is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked under hot rocks heated in a fire.
- Coconut crabs
- All fruits here seem to taste very good
Buy food from local markets, which are common to almost every town.
Restaurants are expensive. You can eat quite well for about 10EUR at a couple of eateries opposite the library in town. For travellers on a budget, you'll need to observe what the Kanaks do for the best deals.
Try kava. You can recognize a Kava bar by a red light outside and dim lighting inside. It is about 100CFP compared to 500CFP for a beer, so about a fifth of the price. You drink the Kava immediately once you've purchased it and then go off to a dark bench to relax.
they mostly eat french food
There are many places around New Caledonia that are affordable and in good condition. All you have to do is search around and you will find somewhere to sleep within your price range.
Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique (VCAT). Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be between 18 and 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offenses.
New Caledonia is fairly safe.
- When snorkeling, one should avoid direct contact with poisonous sea urchins, as well as avoid sustaining scrapes from coral structures, which tends to cause irritations and swelling.
- A seasnake known locally as the Tricot Rayé has a potentially lethal venom, but the snake is not aggressive when left alone, and only attacks when threatened.
- There are sharks, though rarely Great White Sharks. They can be quite big mind you and basically avoid shark attacks by:
- Not having caught (bleeding) fish near yourself
- Facing the shark, so that to the shark, you look large, vertical and difficult to bite
- Going mountain-climbing
- Not going near the water
- There are NO crocodiles living in New Caledonia. Rogue individuals have been observed on the island no more than twice within the past 200 years. Probably swept out from the Solomon Islands.
Iodine or a similar disinfectant is invaluable to fight off small infections, which quite commonly occur in most sores and scratches.
The locals are pretty friendly. Make sure you know a bit of French before you leave, so you don't mistakenly offend anyone.