New Caledonia, wow, what a paradise. And I’m lucky to be able to say my family lives over there. Where? you might ask.. well there’s this small island next to Australia that belongs to France but it’s pretty autonomous (if you’re looking at the map now, it’s that small poop that the dragon of Papua New Guinea has pooped out). And that’s where my father-in-law lives and it is B-E-A-U-TIFUL! If I could (this meaning we would be able to get a great works and have the possibility of teletransporting ourselves to my friends and family at time to time) I would totally live in New Caledonia. 2015 we were living in Sydney, Australia and decided to visit beau-papa for Christmas. But winter is indeed the summer, so we got to experience the hot NC.
The difference between me and my hubby’s dad is that when I go on holiday, I like adventure. See where it takes me and no pressure. My hubby and his dad are totally different. They love to go through their maps, plan all the events and then it’s all like ”we can get all this done”. So right after landing, I’m literally looking around in amazement, whilst Mr Merry and beau-papa are going through ’le program’. But on this trip there was a great balance of ’le program’ and freetime. Back then beau-papa was living further north in Pouembout. So when we arrived we had three days of ’exploration’ time in Nouméa, the capital. We would stay at this tall round hotel building called Case Del Sole. And then once beau-papa was free from work, aka Christmas Holidays, ’le program’ would start.
Mr Merry had visited NC already so he was burning to take me to the sea. And no wonder why. New Caledonia is jam packed with amazing sea life. NC is basically surrounded by coral reef, it has the second biggest reef after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. BUT unlike in Australia, you can pretty much swim to the reef in New Caledonia. It is a lot more closer, less visited and much more alive than the Australia’s reef is. So be prepared with your goggles, because you will want to get them on when swimming in NC. On my first tiny swim from the beach, Plage de la Baie de Citrons, I saw plenty of fish and even a sea snake! So New Caledonia truly is a dream place to be for a person that loves swimming (that is the reason why beau-papa lives there. We call him a fish, even my kids point out snorkelers from books as ’papilo’). Next day we went by boat to a small island called, Île aux Canards, where we could snorkel straight to the reef. We saw so many beautiful fishes and even a magnificent octopus. This was, now looking back, our highlight of all the sea animals we saw. It was our private moment with this beautiful animal of character. I even bought a Nouméa magnet later on that had an octopus in it, because that was our memory. So I can’t recommend more swimming. Swimming, swimming, swimming! Light skinned as me, please make sure your skin is covered!! I was wearing a half suit and burned quite bad.
After burning myself with swimming, it was time to do something else. We knew we were going to do more swimming with beau-papa higher north at a beach that is known to be a sea turtle haven. It was shopping time! Although I soon realised shopping isn’t ideal in NC, since it’s a small island and everything is imported. So prices are very high. Overall NC, although France, is a lot more expensive, so don’t go with empty pockets. But I do have to mention that, when shopping, you need to visit the Nouméa markets! The Port Moselle Market is where all these handmade things and souvenirs are sold. And you can buy most of the delicious stuff that NC has to offer in there, like my absolute favourite papaya ginger jam (this is what my beau-papa has to bring in his suitcase every time he visits us!!). New Caledonia doesn’t have many fruits or specialities, because the ground is very acidy. NC used to be a big exporter of nickel (which you can still find in little rock pieces at beaches) so the ground is very dry and hard. And they haven’t succeeded in many plants and trees on the island. Lychee trees are one that have been a success, and you can find small lychee sellers in the side of the roads. Definitely worth buying and munching on!
Nouméa is super pretty city with it’s hills and views, so if you have possibility of renting a scooter, like we did, or a car, do it! You can truly go around and see the city and it’s destinations. Tourist destinations wise we visited the canak museum, Tjibaou Cultural Center, that is great place to learn about the Kanak culture. It’s also a great place to see the mangrove forest, there’s a lot of it in New Caledonia, so you’ll get a little taste of it easily!
After Christmas was spent, ’le program’ was about to commence. Beau-papa took us first to the South. We visited a waterfall, Les Chutes de la Madeleine. And then we’d start the journey up to Pouembout stopping at Bourail to swim with turtles. From there we’d go through more Kanak regions of NC and head towards east all the way to Poindimie. Then we’d drive all the way back to Nouméa and holiday was over (I wasn’t kidding with ’le program’, these men take it very seriously and they hang out a lot speaking about each little map/history detail. Let me know if you’re really interested in hearing more about that.. I might give Mr Merry editing power to add a little Mr Merry comment box onto the bottom).
Bourail is great place to see turtles because the sea around there is covered in the very thing, seagrasses, the turtles eat. And the coral reef protects the area quite well so big sharks etc don’t enter the more shallow waters. We weren’t lucky enough to swim with turtles this time, but we did end up seeing one from the boat. Man, those animals swim fast! I had this image in my head that turtles would be slow swimmers, but when they want, they move swiftly. We were struggling to follow it with a boat! That’s nature for you, you don’t win always. These beaches, you might get lucky enough to see a rare dugong or a turtle. Or you might just see fish. If you’re super determined to see some exact animal, you might need to focus more time on each destination.
From Pouembout we headed through the more Kanak areas of New Caledonia. And the difference is very visible. The Kanaks definitely live more rough that the more ’French’ Caledonians. And beau-papa was saying that you can’t stop everywhere because there’s always a danger of your car being harmed etc. New Caledonia has had several referendums now (still one coming up) and the Kanaks really want to be independent and claim the country back. So you need to be weary of this situation and not just a tourist doing what you want. Beau-papa had a great attitude though. He would wave at each car, person passing by like they were his friends. I actually thought he knew everyone but that’s just what he was doing to be part of them rather than against. East Coast, Poindimie, was pretty and we stopped at this hotel, Hotel Tieti http://www.tieti.nc/. From the hotel there was a straight access to the sea (again) and the boys had a bit of son-father-bonding swimming. This is the beach where I found nickel that I really wanted to make into a jewellery with my American friend Gemma who made amazing bespoke jewellery, but unfortunately the nickel was too fragile to drill through.
I have to admit that I loved New Caledonia. It has this island life style: You’re taking it chill and when an opportunity arises, you go for a swim. Or maybe that’s just my holiday mode. Anyways I’ve saved best for last: You know how they say everything will kill you in Australia, well New Caledonia doesn’t have much of any of that. It just has some birds. So if you’re scared for your life of all the stuff that will kill you in Australia, visit New Caledonia! You get the reef experience, the heat, the beaches and the chill life. You do have to speak a little French though, although most touristy places would speak English too. I highly recommend this place! From Australia there’s cruise boats to NC, from Japan straight flights to Noumea. So take it into consideration. It’s a paradise!
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