New Caledonia: Lost French Paradise
January 1, 1970
New Caledonia, Noumea the capital
We have recently visited French territory in South Pacific, New Caledonia, and their lagoon island Ouvea. As you might know, New Caledonia is middle of South Pacific. That means in the middle of nowhere. It is about three hours’ flight north of New Zealand. The first language is French and their reputation became quickly known as a “small France”. Since we do not speak French we had to ask my French colleague to buy domestic flight tickets for us because they do not speak English at the domestic airport. Good things that we have such an international mix in the office back here in the New Zealand. They even refused to take us at one of the remote area accommodations, because we do not speak their language. This is going to be a great trip!
The first day in Noumea was great and we manage to get by with English only. Noumea is a pretty little city. Just couple hundred meters from the main beach is a tiny “Duck” island. You can catch the water taxi every half an hour to get there. It is a perfect place for snorkeling; there are so many corals that they are going all the way to the beach. There are even signs at certain places with “do not enter here” because you would damage the corals. It is better to go there when is high tide. As soon as you dive, you immediately appear in the different dimension. A flock of fish of all colors is surrounding you left and right, back and forward.
I have seen even more than onemeterlong fish as well as tiny little ones. One of the small ones tried to taste me, neither of us like it. But no worries it was not a shark. The coolest thing in the Noumea is, however, a different island. The name of the island is Ilot Maitre and it has one main purpose; Kitesurfing. No joke there is an island just for kitesurfing. We have seen about 50 kite surfers on that island. If you are fun in the sport, make sure you pack your gear. There is no place to rent it.
Ouvea is one of the small islands of New Caledonia. It’s not too far from the capital, but you still need to take a plane or a ferry to get there. It is about 35km long and in some place only 40m wide. Coming to Ouvea by plane is an experience on its own. We were passing above the coral reef with all the imaginable beautiful colors and fairytale islands big enough just for one palm tree.
The most amazing view, however, appeared once we arrived. It was simply an absolutely breathtaking beach. I mean, there are a lot of nice beach in New Zealand and beautiful beaches in Australia but this is truly a remarkable place!
Ouvèa – Animals
There are all kinds of animals in the sea in Ouvea. A few minutes after our arrival we were lucky enough to spot a several sea turtles just meters from the beach. A few minutes boat ride off shore from Ouvea is an even smaller coral island. Immediately after we hoped from the boat and touched the beach, we almost stepped on a hermit crab. When I was a little boy my mom used to tell me stories about these little fellows. It’s a kind of crab that doesn’t have a shell but it finds an empty one and lives in it. Once it grows and the shell doesn’t fit anymore, it will leave it and look for a new one.
I used to look for these little crabs everywhere, but I never had any luck. Eventually, some told me that once you see the shell on the beach, it’s dead already, that the crab only lives in the sea. As you can guess by this point, it’s a complete myth. I was standing there watching the beach full of hermit crabs crawling everywhere. There was so many that the kids started to collect them and doing crab races.
Ok, the beach was awesome, but it was just a start. The coral reef was literary meters away, so let’s grab a mask and hop in the water. The coral reef is just an incredible experience to watch. An endless combination of colors and shapes complemented with countless kinds of fish of all sizes. The most interesting experience I had was with a flock of sardine. I swam in the middle of the flock and there was so many of them that you could hear them swim. I had no idea that you can actually hear the fish swim if there is so many of them! I was enjoying that special moment for a little bit and then I remembered one episode from documentary Blue Planet. It has a special episode about sardines. It’s basically a feast of the ocean. Everybody
in the whole sea comes to that feast, barracudas, dolphins, birds and eventually sharks. The sharks are even visible from the plane because there are so many sardines that the sea appears black and the sharks are the light spots that the poor fish are trying to run away from.
So I was swimming there in the middle of this flock, by far the easiest target and I was remembering that Ouvea has a great shark colony. At this stage, I decided it was time to go and got out of the water. Sure enough, 30 minutes later the shark appeared. It was a reef shark, those are supposedly safe to be within the water, but it was a bloody shark! Needless to say, it aimed for the flock of the sardines.
When the shark was gone, it was our turn to get some fish. So I asked some locals to show me how to fish with a net. It was a fun training. I don’t speak
French and he didn’t speak English. It took a few failed attempts, but eventually, we managed to finish a good thing and we got a decent amount of fish. In the end, we went for a promised shark watching. It was truly impressive. The way I see it, an even small shark is a very respectful animal.
The whole New Caledonia experience was just amazing, nice welcoming people and even though they don’t speak English, they are very helpful. Nature and beaches are just stunning and to complete the great place there is one of the best coral reefs!
It was really hard to found basic information in English about accommodation or anybody who could help us in the French-speaking country. Hope that this will help you to make your trip awesome.
Hostel in Noumea with English speaking staff
Accommodation is basic and clean with a great view of the city center. The staff was always really helpful with good knowledge of the place. You could get minivan transfer to airport from their location.
Accommodation Ouvea island
If you do not speak French or Spanish, you may need this awesome guy from Ouvea Tourist OfficeSYNDICAT D’INITIATIVE D’IAAI
Facebook: Ouvéa TourismePhone: (+687)94.97.14
He helped us a lot with a reservation at the local Gité (traditional hut). He made transfer reservation from the airport and offer us a great place to stay at Mouli beach.