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New Caledonia

New Caledonia is the third largest island in the Pacific Region after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. It is located in southern Melanesia, at a latitude of 19° - 23° south and at a longitude of 158° - 172° east.

The island is situated about 1,500 km from Australia, 1,700 km from New Zealand, 5,000 km from Tahiti, 7,000 km from Japan, 10,000 km from the West Coast of the USA and 20,000 km from France.
The Main Land The Main Land is where most people live, and is the richest area of New Caledonia. It is divided lengthwise by a range of mountains (Chaîne Centrale), the highest points of which are "Mount Panié" in the north (1,629 m) and "Mount Humboldt" in the south (1,618 m). Various species of trees can be found in these mountains. This unusual relief, very much like a backbone, divides the Mainland into 2 very different areas:

  • The East Coast, humid and open to the trade winds is a fertile, exotic land with lush tropical vegetation, green valleys, beautiful waterfalls, rivers, … and authentic Melanesian huts along the road.
  • The West Coast, a drier, temperate zone. There are fewer coconut trees but "niaouli" trees grow by the thousands and the endemic wildlife is rich. It is a "cattle country," shaped by people who live at the pace of their cattle. There is an abundance of beautiful beaches too. Unlike its volcanic neighbours, New Caledonia is a fragment of an ancient continent which drifted away some 250 million years ago. Its flora and fauna evolved in isolation, and are now quite unique: 3500 recorded species of plants, three quarters of which occur only here; 4300 species of land animals, 1000 species of fish, 6500 species of marine invertebrates.
Five hundred kilometers long, fifty kilometers wide, New Caledonia offers an endless variety of landscapes, from some of the best white sand beaches in the Pacific to spectacular mountain retreats. Surrounded by a 1,600 km long coral reef, New Caledonia also boasts the largest lagoon in the world. The reef can be as close as a few kilometers from the coast in some places and as far as 65 km in others - with an average depth of 40 m. The Territory of New Caledonia consists of the Main Land, the Isle of Pines to the south of the Main Land, the Loyalty Islands to the east of the Main Land (Maré, Lifou, Tiga and Ouvéa), the Belep Archipelago in the north west and numerous islands and islets: Huon & Surprise, Chesterfield, Walpole, Beautemps-Beaupré, Astrolabe, and the Bellona reef, … a total surface of 19,000 sq km (16,372 sq km for the Main Land alone, which is 400 km long). Use the map above to navigate your way around New Caledonia. Click on the map to zoom in and find out more about New Caledonia's Southern Province destinations

The Southern Province

The Southern Province offers such a variety that it would be very difficult to make the tour in some pages.

From the capital Nouméa to the Big South and to the coasts lined with beaches in the white sand. Restaurants, Bars and Nightclubs: the nights of Nouméa will allow you to get acquainted with the multiple restaurants, the bars and nightclubs around the bays. The Tjibaou cultural center is a place for local artists, or for the representations of many shows but it also shelters a museum on the Kanak identity and from ancient or contemporary works of art.

The Southern Province corresponds more or less to southeast half of the Grande Terre (Main Land) as well as the Isle of Pines. With 7 012 km ², it is more widened than the province of  Loyalty Islands but is slightly smaller than the Northern Province. Its highest summit is the Mount Humboldt, in 1 618 m (the second highest summit of New Caledonia, behind the Mount Panié), in the Central Chain.

It includes13 municipalities: 

· 8 on the west coast of the Main Land, the coast under the wind, less sprayed than the east coast and especially having a vast coastal plain spreading out between the ocean and the foothills of the Central Chain: big grassy plain and of savanna, where we find essentially (except the town of Grand Nouméa) rural villages practising especially the extensive breeding of cattle, it is there that concentrate the descendants of Europeans, said European New Caledonians, who distinguish themselves between urban Nouméens and countrymen " Broussards ": four of them form what is called the Grand Nouméa, united in three SIVU (for the drinkable water supply, for the school transport and the collection and the management of household refuse), an association of communes of Grand Nouméa (SIGN, competent for the pound and the reflections on the links between local authorities) and in a contract of town signed with the State for period 2000-2004 then 2006-2010:

- Mont-Dore

- Nouméa (administrative centre of the Territory and the Province, also common the most populated and the smallest by its surface of New Caledonia)

- Dumbéa

- Boulouparis

- Païta

- Foa

- Moindou

- Bourail

· 2 on the east coast of the Main Land, more exposed to dominant winds and more rainy, are essentially made of a narrow plain, hillsides of the Central Chain, falling in a more or less abrupt way in the ocean, and green, in the dense tropical vegetation. It knows weaker densities, and essentially Melanesian population:

- Thio

- Yaté (the most vast municipality of the Territory, and the 15th French Municipality by its surface, it is the only one of the Province to have at present an independent mayor, if we do not count Poya)

· 2 municipalities located inside the Central Chain are the only New Caledonian municipalities to have no access to the ocean:

- Sarraméa

- Farino (the smallest municipality of the Territory after Nouméa, and also the one who knows descendants' strongest proportion of Europeans within its population).

· 1 island municipality: the Isle of Pines.

· The municipality of Poya had its territory divided between the Southern and the Northern Provinces.

Investigate the Southern Province: 

    Destination: BOULOUPARIS, BOURAIL or DUMBEA

 

The Northern Province

Get ready to discover an authentic destination and of a rare variety: the Northern Province. Its landscapes are wonderful: wide plains of the west coast in the magnificent waterfalls and the rain forests of the east coast, without forgetting the deserted islands, the attractive beaches and the sites of exceptional dive , the visitor who loves the contact with nature and virgin spaces will be happy!Concerning the accomodation, you have the choice between: equipped campsites, shelters, or hotels of one to three stars: the offer is vast. If you want to discover the life in tribe, nothing'sbetter than the reception at the inhabitant or the tribal shelter. If you want all the modern comfort, the west coast and the east coast, propose you their services in hotels " 3 stars ". There is for all the tastes and all the stock exchanges.Finally, at the level of the activities, amateurs of strong sensations or lovers of the pondering will find their happiness among an offer supplied with sports or tourist activities. Hiking and Diving are the best activities to do in this so generous nature. But the Northern Province is also the occasion to make authentic meetings and to share the "bougna" (traditional food) in tribes, while listening to the tales and legends of the Kanak world.It is an immediate boarding for the discovering of the beauty!  The Northern Province corresponds more or less to northwest half of the Big Earth as well as Belep Island. With 9 582,6 km2, it is the widest of the three provinces. Its highlight is situated at the top of Mount Panié, in 1 628 m, which is also the highest summit of New Caledonia, in the Central Chain.It includes 16 municipalities:

· 5 on the west coast of the Main Land, the coast under the wind, less sprayed than the east coast and especially having a vast coastal plain spreading out between the ocean and the foothills of the Central Chain: big grassy plain and of savanne, where we find essentially rural villages practising especially the extensive breeding of cattle. They are also the only municipalities of the North which have a significant population of descendants of Europeans (they are a majority in Pouembout and Koumac): three of them are  part of the Plan of development and the town planning (REGIONAL PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME) of Voh-Koné-Pouembout says VKP, to create, around the creation of the future factory of the North on the site of Koniambo, an urban pole in the North to facilitate the rebalancing and compete with the monopoly of Nouméa:

- Pouembout

- Koné (administrative centre)

- Voh

- Kaala-Gomen

- Koumac 

· 9 on the east coast of the Main Land, more exposed to dominant winds and being really rainy, are composed of narrow plains, the hillsides of the Central Chain falling in a more or less abrupt way in the ocean, and green, in the dense tropical vegetation. It also contains the strongest concentration of Kanak population :

- Ouégoa

- Pouébo

- Hienghène

- Touho

- Poindimié (the municipality the most populated of the Province)

- Ponérihouen

- Houaïlou

- Kouaoua

- Canala

· 1 in the north point of the Main Land, the only one to have access to both coasts of the island:

- Poum

· 1 island municipality: Belep Island (the least populated but also the smallest of the Province, it is thus the densest there).

· The municipality of Poya had its territory divided between both Provinces.

The Loyaulty Islands

The Province of Loyalty Islands corresponds to the archipelago of the same name, consisted of three main islands, Maré, Lifou and Ouvéa, and one of the smallest, Tiga. They are situated between 100 and 150 km by the East coast of the Mainland, and in 272 km in the West-southwest of the island of Anatom, in Vanuatu. 

Exposed to the (east-south-east) prevailing wind, the Loyalty Islands possess are rainy places, with an average of 1 600 mm a year. This gives birth to a dense vegetation of tropical type. With 1 980, 9 km ², it is the least vast of the three provinces. The biggest of the four islands, Lifou, with 1 196, 1 km ² approximately, is vaster than Martinique or than Tahiti. Maré (641,7 km ²), Ouvéa (132,1 km ²) and finally Tiga (11 km ²) comes then. 

At a time when sustainable tourism is growing, the Loyalty Islands offer the visitor a unique opportunity to share the Kanaks’ daily life and to walk in their steps long enough for a stroll or a fishing trip. Each island has its admirers: Ouvéa for its beauty and beaches; Lifou for its immense bays bordered by New Caledonian pines; Maré for the way it sums up the islands’ splendour.

No visitor to the Loyalty Islands is treated as just another tourist, but rather as a privileged and welcome guest. In return, the islanders thank visitors for respecting Melanesian customary traditions. This body of simple rules and observances has grown up and evolved with each generation (see preceding section).
Visitors are specifically concerned by the customary rule forbidding access to certain sacred taboo places (such as the inner compounds of the chiefdoms, certain beaches, woods or other special sites that are not necessarily signposted) unless prior permission has been sought from local clan or tribal chiefs. Before visiting these sites or taking photographs, visitors should find out what they need to do. This may take the form of a verbal request or, in some specific cases, a simple customary ritual where gifts are exchanged and words of welcome spoken.
Your hosts or local people you meet as you travel around the islands will be glad to give you help and advice about local customs and any procedures you need to follow.
You can also refer to the Ethical Tourism Guide, published by Destination Loyalty Islands, for guidelines about respecting local cultural, social and environmental values.

Visitors will find a wide range of accommodation in the Loyalty Islands to fit all pockets and all tastes.

 

  • All three islands offer international standard luxury hotels (sports and leisure facilities and entertainment). The Paradis d’Ouvéa, on the island of the same name, is a luxurious four star hotel set in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, offering top-of-the-range service and accommodation.
  • Or you can opt for one of several motels offering accommodation in comfortable modern bungalows (bathroom and kitchen facilities), an ideal choice for group or family holidays.
  • Melanesian-owned and run gîtes in local tribal villages offer visitors well-run and friendly service and comfortable accommodation.
  • The Loyalty Islands offer visitors the unique experience of tribal village stays sleeping in traditional Melanesian huts. A stay combining rustic simplicity with all the basic comforts and facilities you need for a pleasant holiday and a unique chance to meet the island people and share in Melanesian family life. Traditional huts accommodate two to ten people and you may share your room with other visitors.  Enjoy lively discussions with your hosts and learn about their way of life. A unique and unforgettable holiday experience.


  • Give yourself time to explore at will the limpid azure waters of the lagoon, the gardens with their profusion of scents, the ancient paths and caves. Let yourself be carried away by these islands imbued with the spirit of the Pacific.

Maré

Nengone, in the local language, is the southern most and highest island of the Loyalty Islands, half the size of Lifou with an area of 650 km2. Its five layers of coral reach a height of almost 130 metres on the southern coast. It has a wild beauty, with its deeply carved cliffs, basalt rocks and dark forests, its wonderful little creeks with fine sand nestling between rocky promontories and long undisturbed beaches fringed with coconut palms. The central plain, made up of the lagoon, is dotted with numerous caves and natural freshwater or saltwater pools containing fish and turtles and featuring shades of blue and green typical of the island.
Maré is divided into eight districts covering 29 tribal villages: Guahma, Tadine, Wabao, Eni, Médu, La Roche, Tawainêdre and Pénélo. The main activity of the 6,900 Maré Islanders is the market gardening which supplies the whole of New Caledonia with fruits of unique colours and flavours. Avocados from Maré have acquired such a reputation that they are snapped up in Noumea, and a great festival is devoted to them every year on the island.

First christened Britannia, after the ship captained by William Raven who explored the area in 1803, Maré was long under the influence of British sailors, merchants and missionaries. This influence can still be found today in the Nengone language, which is strongly marked by English words and pronunciations. The first European to set foot on the island was Captain Butler of the Walpole in 1800. But it was not until four decades later that the first real contacts with the whites were established. From 1841 onwards the Reverend Murray spread Protestant values. His Catholic counterpart, the Reverend Beaulieu, did likewise for his creed: unrest continued until 1883. Maré Islanders have always integrated newcomers who settle on the island, which explains their obviously mixed origins and their open and sturdy character.  

Lifou

Drehu, in local language, is the widest island of the archipelago of the Loyalty islands. Its surface of 1150 km2 is equivalent to that of Martinique. The variety of its natural sites incites the visitor to the discovery, more than in the other islands. The coast, cut by long and deep bays, allies with long beaches of white sand, cliffs cut in the former cliff and bottom coral in magic colors. The inside of the island, the vast plain built on the former lagoon, is covered with dense rain forests convenient to the hike.

10 000 inhabitants populate this island divided into 3 customary districts: Wetr, Lösi and Gaïca. The liveliness of the traditions and the custom is tangible, as well during the big customary holidays as in all the acts of the everyday life such as the agriculture or the construction of traditional huts. Wé, the administrative center of the Loyalty Islands, is the most important town. Nicely located at the edge of the bay of Chateaubriand, it shelters the main administrative and commercial infrastructures of the island.

Officially discovered and mapped by the French anthropologist Dumont d'Urville in 1827, Lifou was quickly surrounded by tens of Catholic and Protestant missionaries. They took the opportunity to make of the island a closed door of their fight of influence on the local souls, and of that more prosaïque the competition between the British empire and France for the control of this part of the South Pacific. Today, the everyday life, the social organization and the environment is still influenced by its historically disturbed period, as well as the passage of the sailors of the 19th century, santaliers, whalers and " blackbirders ". It is only in 1864 that the Loyalty Islands were annexed by France. However, unfit of an extensive colonization, they will be settled in autochtonous reserves, status which will forge definitively the history of the archipelago and the particular character of the Loyaltiens.

Ouvéa

Ouvéa, Iaai in local language, is the most northern island in the Pacific Ocean of the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands, more particular in the northeast of the Main Land of New Caledonia.

Ouvéa is lined on the west by a wide lagoon and a beach 25 km long. A group of islands, called Pléïades, prolongs lands in the North and in the South. The atoll is constituted of two parts(parties), one in the South and the other one in the North, joined by a narrow isthmus. Both parts are connected by the bridge of Mouli. The island is often presented as one of the most beautiful atolls of the Pacific, but it is not strictly speaking an atoll because of its relief.

Ouvéa is also a municipality which administrative and demographic center is Fayahoué, located in the center of the island. The district of the northern part is Saint Joseph. The island consists of 5 districts: Fayaoué, Mouli, Imone, Saint Joseph and Takedji.

Two languages are spoken in Ouvéa, Iaai and western ouvéa (or Faga-uvea). This last one is a Polynesian language, sharply different from the other languages of New Caledonia. It is indeed close to languages spoken in Wallis and Futuna.

The landscapes of Ouvéa are radiant and its beaches are considered as the most beautiful of New Caledonia. Shelters situated in tribe or hotels located on beaches of white sand, are there to welcome you and offer you the best of Ouvéa so that that you can discover its original beauty which makes of her " the island nearest to Paradise ".