Discovering New Caledonia’s North East Coast In A Hurry New Caledonia Tourism has taken the first step in their grand plan to build visitation to the French Pacific Island.
The tourism body invited more than 30 Australian and New Zealand wholesalers, agents and media to attend their first workshop in Noumea at the end of May.
As an introduction to New Caledonia, a group of nine of us was hosted to a hasty four night, five day tour of the north east, a less worn part of this fabulous destination and the landscapes of east and west are staggeringly different.
The experience started at the new Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort and Spa set in 60 hectares on the west coast (20 for the hotel and 40 for the American designed golf course). It also boasts the biggest pool in New Cal.
Say g’day to Australian born Debbera Robert, the Executive Assistant who has been in New Cal for more than 20 years.
Next day we head east. We snake onwards and upwards heading to the east coast and then north experiencing the lush forests, waves and smiles from the local Kanaks. There is a myriad of perfectly mown and manicured picnic spots all the way along the waterfront. This is a tropical paradise of lush greenery, high peaks and vertical valleys dotted by sparkling streams and majestic waterfalls cascading down the high mountains into the sea.
The East Coast also boasts a wealth of tribal communities and some offer great homestays.
We call in for lunch at Napoemien tribe and meet with Jehudit Pwija, our Kanak guide. I nicknamed him Kevin, much easier for all of us!!
Preparation of the traditional Kanak meal, the Bougna, which consists of a flavoursome mixture of vegetables, including yams, sweet potato, onion, pumpkin and we had prawns and chicken in two separate cook ups. Everything is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for two hours in the ground. Verdict: Delicious.
Next we meet Martin from Aqualagoon Centre and his two offsiders, Adele and Jan, the only indigenous diving instructors in the country. We did some splendid snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and spent the night at the Tieti Hotel at Poindimie, a little over halfway up the 400 k long east coast. All our hotels were beachfront.
Our final stop heading to the northern most point was the Malabou Beach Hotel, which provided the most sensational seafood buffet dinner. Phillippe our driver and noted New Caledonian singer provided the entertainment along with the resident keyboard player. An early night because of the hectic days we had put in, but we also had a 350 k journey the next day back on the west coast to Noumea.
French is the main language, although the Melanesians and local indigenous people, Kanaks, speak in more than 100 dialects. English is spoken in most areas. The local traditions are highly respected and even the constabulary has to give 24 hours notice in some instances before entering tribal villages.
New Caledonia Tourism is on a mission to boost visitation to the north end of the island. This was very popular about 15 years ago when Club Med was in residence but now the pristine area is not as well attended as Noumea, the Isle of Pines and the three Loyalty Islands.
Travelling in the north of the island is certainly a stress free and fascinating experience. I look forward to a return visit, perhaps not quite so frenetic.
New Caledonia has a temperate climate with two main seasons: cooler, June to August and hot, mid-November to mid-April.
The time is plus one hour EST
Official currency is the French Pacific Franc (XPF)
Exchange 30 May $1 AUD = 81 XPF
Further information on New Caledonia
Written by John Savage