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Lagoon with a view


This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the naming of New Caledonia’s lagoon as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, we look at how Aussies can get the most from a visit to this important landmark.

New Caledonia's vast lagoon is one of the largest marine reserves in the world, making it one of considerable environmental significance and interest.

 

Isle of Pines

 

The lagoon’s coral reef is one of the main nesting sites for the Green turtle, the Hawksbill turtle, the Loggerhead turtle and the Leatherback turtle as well as several rare crab species. As well as this, more than 23 species of tropical seabirds, including boobies, noddies and frigatebirds, soar over the lagoon, which is 24,000 km2 in size.

 

On top of this, July not only marks the beginning of the cool season in New Caledonia but also the return of the humpback whales, who swim north from Antarctica to escape the cold and give birth in the warmer waters of the South Pacific.

 

Protecting all this marine life and more is a key reason why the lagoon was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.  

 

Above the water

Paraglide, helicopter, skydive or sit up in the cockpit of a light plane to see the contrasting blues and depths of the lagoon, the wildlife below and the many islets dotting the shoreline. 

 

 

On the water

With constant breezes and warm water, the lagoon is ideal for board sports such as windsurfing, kite surfing, surfing or wakeboarding. For novices who want to get in on the adventure, there’s no shortage of water sport schools in both Nouméa and around the country.  

Sailing is a favourite Caledonian pastime and both experienced and beginners can find countless ways to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. Discover islets that are still wild and cross paths with dolphins, turtles, dugongs and other inhabitants of the lagoon. 

Fishing is a part of the DNA of the South Pacific archipelago and New Caledonia is ranked in the top five sites in the world for fly-fishing. You can see fishermen in the northern parts of the lagoon fishing in low tide and often bringing in some big catches.

 

Under the water

New Caledonia boasts a myriad of diving and snorkelling spots, with coral pinnacles sheltering multi-coloured sealife that is often accessible even without wearing a tank. With only a mask, flippers and a snorkel, a swimmer can also see butterfly fish, triggerfish, parrotfish and clownfish, plus many more.

 

French-inspired cuisine

 

What else to do?

Discover the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, a contemporary building inspired by the traditional Kanak architecture and surrounded by nature, all sitting on Nouméa’s Magenta Bay. Guests can visit the Centre to learn about the indigenous Kanak culture through interactive exhibitions, shows and concerts, or discover how Kanaks live through the replica displays within the gardens.

Being an island in the Pacific, it will come as no surprise that seafood features on many restaurant menus with freshly-caught prawns of every denomination, lobsters, oysters, marlin, mackerel, crab and mussels for delectable bowls of moules marinières. The market at Port Moselle in Nouméa is one of the best places to pick up fresh seafood, caught only a few hours earlier by the local fishermen.

 

With Nouméa only two hours from Brisbane, under three hours from Sydney and less than four hours from Melbourne, New Caledonia is fast becoming a destination where travellers can have it all. 

 

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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 1 February 2018


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