If you thought that New Caledonia is just a typical heavenly destination with a tropical allure, sandy beaches and azure waters, then you were… partially right. But there’s another side to New Caledonia, a complete contrast to its exotic flair, a grandiose and elegant ambience influenced by the charming country of France. So, whether you are looking for a sanctuary in the middle of Pacific, a luxurious shopping spree in Parisian boutiques or perhaps a mixture of the two, these are the things you should know about New Caledonia.
Isle of Pines
By far the most popular attraction of this distant archipelago is the Isle of Pines. Sometimes called l’île la plus proche du paradis (“the closest island to Paradise”) it truly lives up to its name. The colorful corals and tropical fish which can be seen through the translucent waters are only a minor part of this island. Just a 2.5-hour ferry ride from the capital parts you from the rich biodiversity, unusual animals and the breathtaking ruins of a penal colony which can be seen on the Ile de Pins. A pyramid-shaped memorial and the Cimetière des Déportés show the historical significance of the island and its heritage.
The best way to experience the enchanting blend of the Kanak and French culture is to explore the capital Noumea. Because it lies on a protected harbour and serves as a chief port of New Caledonia, it is no wonder that it has some of the most awe-inspiring beaches and surrounding bays and lagoons. The city is considered one of the best places for active vacations, as hiking, kayaking, diving and surfing are quite popular among both locals and tourists. Of course, you’ll never get enough of the exquisite French architecture, but don’t be afraid to learn about some local culture at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, the Museum of Maritime History or dive into the exotic world of the Blue River Provincial Park.
History and Culture
Up until 1774, New Caledonia was inhabited by the Kanak people, the indigenous people of this island. After that, James Cook discovered the island and gave it its current name. It became a French colony in 1853 and even though the official language on the island is French, there are about 30 Melanesian languages that are widely spoken. In the past, conflicts have arisen between the two opposing nations, but still a fairly casual atmosphere prevails on the island. The mixture of cultures is quite obvious and there is nothing unusual about seeing indigenous people wearing their traditional wear in the midst of the French Riviera.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this South Pacific archipelago is its extraordinary biodiversity and unique flora and fauna. Some say that New Caledonia is a biodiversity hotspot, meaning it has significant levels of biodiversity which are under the threat of humans. Most of the island is covered in rainforests, which are permeated with moss, ponds, mists and streams that contribute to the complete enchanting appeal. Dryer forests dominate the western part of the island, with nearly 400 plant species and endangered animal species such as the ornate flying fox and the New Caledonia wattled bat. Its marine biodiversity counts nearly 10.000 species and the island is inhabited by some endemic species of animals such as tropical invertebrates, a variety of reptiles and a great number of birds.
In 2008, UNESCO listed the New Caledonia barrier reef on the World Heritage List, because of its beauty, biological and ecological processes, biological diversity and threatened species. Right there on the hills of the West Coast in the Sheraton New Caledonia Deva resort & spa, you have the opportunity to observe the clear blue waters and the second longest double barrier reef in the world.
This archipelago offers a remarkable blend of two distinctive cultures, which creates a truly astonishing cultural masterpiece. Dive into the azure waters, visit its historical memorials and experience the true splendor of this tropical getaway.
Roxana is a Sydney based travel enthusiast with a passion for writing. She loves fashion and has an eye for anything visually appealing and aesthetical. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. You can find her articles on HighStyleLife and StyleByAsia.
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