Immense coral reefs, kaori rainforest and a heart-shaped mangrove are just some of the sights that tantalise travellers on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia.
If you were to define New Caledonia by its palette – from deep-red soils and opalescent water, to vibrant-green forests – the nation would be among the most colourful in the Southern Hemisphere.
With the natural beauty of New Caledonia, savour your stay and catch as much of the outdoors as you can. To help you on your way to your next adventure, here are some of our favourite things to do in New Caledonia.
Grab your fins and go diving
With grand swathes of opalescent water, which reveal gigantic stretches of living rock – coral, the lifeblood of New Caledonia’s biodiversity – the island is adequately known for its picturesque ocean and living lagoons.
New Caledonia is home to one of the world’s most important living reef systems, which means that the mainland and archipelago coastlines are peerless for diving. Sea temperatures in the lagoon range from 21 to 28 degrees Celsius, making for comfortable dives year-round.
Covering more than 15,000 square kilometres, the tropical lagoons and coral reefs of New Caledonia are one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world. They contain the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures, with an enormous diversity of coral, fish and mammal species including sharks, sea turtles, dugong, manta ray, dolphins and humpback whales.
In 2008, the lagoons and coral reefs were enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As UNESCO has stated, “[the reefs] are of exceptional natural beauty, and contain diverse reefs of varying age from living reefs through to ancient fossil reefs, providing an important source of information on the natural history of Oceania”.
Tackle the trade winds and try kite-surfing
With some of the best trade winds in the world, the nation is also renowned for its water sports. In Noumea, Anse Vata Bay is a popular spot for kite- and wind-surfing. For those eager to give it a go for the first time, lessons and rental equipment are readily available throughout Noumea.
Equally as popular among the locals is stand-up paddle-boarding, with a number of operators like Base Nautique Îlot Maître offering rental equipment for eager travellers.
If you’re game enough to tackle the trade-winds, head out from Anse Vata in the afternoon. For something more scenic and minus the chop, we recommend getting up early for a morning paddle across the Anse Vata Bay.
In the spirit of taking it slow upon the water, you could also try your hand at open-water kayaking. Extremely popular on the open-ocean and through New Caledonia’s riverine system, kayaking is offered by several rental and tour operators across the country.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try a multi-day tour of the Forgotten Coast – between Yaté and Thio – and tackle 65km of coastline. By the end, having camped like a minimalist overnight across the coast, you’ll feel like a modern day Robinson Crusoe.
Kayak and trekk the South Province
On solid ground, the nation is equally as rich, holding wide regions of rain-forest, maquis shrubland, water-bogged swampland and a high density of mangroves – a feast for the eyes of hikers, four-wheel drivers and horse-riders.
Visits to Blue River National Park in Yaté Commune, South Province, are among the most memorable the country has to offer. Beneath ochre soiled treescapes, you’ll find some of the best and most beautiful walking terrain in the country, with the adjacent river’s sapphire-blue water feeding the soul as you go.
The region is also home to a significant portion of the endemic kaori tree. Among the trees is the Giant Kaori, an individual that some have estimated to be over 1,000-years-old. The trees were once extremely abundant along the rivers of southern Grande Terre, but were logged to provide Noumea timber.
The Giant Kaori is found in the 9,045 hactare of the park. Visitors to this section of forest should also keep their eyes peeled for the ‘ghost of the forest’ – aptly named for its ash-white plumage – New Caledonia’s national bird, the endangered Kagu.
The region is also home to some of the best inland kayaking New Caledonia has to offer. Among the park’s picturesque sights, make sure to kayak past forêt noyée, the Grand Kaori tree, the Gué de la Pourina ford, and the Pont Germain bridge.
With a number of providers based around the river, renting a kayak for the day is straightforward – while several operators also offer tours of the area. This is a rare opportunity to witness the ancient wilderness of New Caledonia, parts of which – like the Deep Caledonian South – have not changed for millennia.
For a truly unique experience of the Blue River, kayak through forêt noyée under the light of a full moon.
Visit La Cœur de Voh
But perhaps the most visually distinct location on the island is La Cœur de Voh – The Heart of Voh. From above, the naturally-formed structure is in the perfect shape of a love heart. Visitors are encouraged to grab the person they care about most in the world, take a helicopter flight over the top of the adjacent Mount Katépei, and express their love to them.
The Heart of Voh was immortalised in 1999, with the publishing of photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s book of aerial photography, Earth from above.
For more information on what New Caledonia has to offer in 2019, click here.