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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:35

New Caledonia is for Nature Lovers

ASIA-NewCal
New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France, a rare jewel set in the Pacific Ocean. From coast to coast, New Caledonia stretches over 300 miles, passing through the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands. To give a sense of New Caledonia’s location, it is east of Australia, north of New Zealand, south of the Equator, and just west of Fiji and Vanuatu. Uniting the archipelago is a coral reef, second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is UNESCO designated, and is an area of exceptional natural beauty, featuring a unique diversity of coral and fish species. It surrounds an astonishing lagoon, which hides its own preserved ecosystem.

Grande Terre
The main island, called Grande Terre, is separated into two coasts, created by a mountain range that runs the length of the island, dividing it into two distinct areas. In the southwest on Grande Terre, you will find Noumea, the capital city of the South province. This city is the very heart of the country, giving visitors the sense of a trendy, yet historic European city, such as the French Riviera, with a Polynesian vibe. Noumea is a growing, vibrant place, boasting unspoiled beauty in addition to many recreational, cultural and sporting activities. Here you will find historic districts from the times when the area was named Port-de-France, and used as a penal colony. It was also the location of nickel and gold mining activities, and there is still some nickel mining activity in New Caledonia today. Today, added to these historical sites are modern shops, restaurants, and museums, all surrounded by superb beaches and colorful bays. In all, Noumea is a vital multi-cultural city, with strong ties to the past.

North of Noumea along the west coast are wide-open plains used for livestock farming, where visitors will find real cowboys of the Pacific. Here also are more fabulous beaches.

Along the east coast, there is lush vegetation, green valleys and stunning waterfalls. The mountain range that runs the length of Grande Terre has created a unique and diverse landscape for botany, bird, animal and fish species, and a biodiversity found nowhere else in the world. It truly is the ultimate destination for nature lovers.

Islands of New Caledonia
Off the mainland lie the Loyalty Islands. There are three main islands here - Lifou, Mare and Ouvea - where nature displays her splendor on both land and sea. In the extreme south of Grande Terre, the legendary Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) is heaven for visitors in search of truly unspoiled beauty. Life on these islands is organized around the tribes and customs of the Kanak culture, and its people. The Kanak people are indigenous to New Caledonia, and their populations are grouped into “land” or “sea” clans, depending on their original location, and the occupation of their ancestors. Today, you can see their traditions reflected in their woodcarving of totems and masks, and the basketry of the native women. There are more than 30 Kanak languages spoken in New Caledonia, though French is spoken in most villages.

Activities
As you might imagine, most activities here involve the abundant natural resources. There is scuba and snorkeling, fishing, swimming and sailing and yachting in addition to every other type of water sport imaginable. There is a full calendar of events including sailing regattas, farmer’s markets, guided tours, arts and crafts shows, horseback and bicycle riding, as well as hiking in these spectacular surroundings. Also to be enjoyed are gourmet dining, fabulous shopping and
many cultural activities.

Where to stay
There is a wide range of accommodations available to suit all visitors. Charming bungalows bathed in the crystalline waters of the lagoon, a home-stay in the heart of a tribal village, eco-lodges offering a view of the sunny plains of the West. Farmstays are ideal for tourists looking for tradition and a cultural experience. Most big-name or luxury hotel accommodations are found in the Noumea region on Grande Terre, including Hilton, Starwood (Le Meridien and Sheraton), Ramada Plaza, and the Chateau Royal Resort and Spa.
For more information, visit en.visitnewcaledonia.com

Getting There
Tontouta International Airport is about 30 miles, or 45 minutes north or Noumea. Aircalin is the international airline of New Caledonia, and offers service to and from the US in conjunction with its airline partners. Aircalin flies to New Caledonia from Australia and New Zealand. New Caledonia is less than a 3-hour flight from Auckland and Sydney.

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