NEW CALEDONIA is the French Overseas Territory of Nouvelle Calédonie, located around 21°30’S, 165°30’E in the southwest Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,200 km (746 miles) east of Australia and 1,500 km (932 miles) northwest of New Zealand. The island nation of Vanuatu lies to the northeast. New Caledonia is considered one of the world’s most botanically-important, and critically endangered hotspots.
New Caledonia is made up of a main island, the mountainous Grande Terre, 400 km (250 miles) long and 48 km (30 miles) wide, and several smaller islands, the Belep archipelago to the north of the Grande Terre, the off lying Loyalty Islands to the east of the Grande Terre (Maré, Lifou and Ouvéa), the Île des Pins to the south of the Grande Terre, the Chesterfield Islands and Bellona Reefs further to the west.
The Grande Terre is by far the largest of the islands and the only mountainous island. The Grande Terre also boasts one of the largest insular coral reefs in the world and one can sail around much of the island inside the reef. Nouméa itself is a cosmopolitan city and an excellent place to reprovision as virtually everything is available. Noumea offers all facilities that superyachts may have missed whilst cruising the Pacific, such as dairy products, big supermarkets, wines and health services.
Noumea offers a remarkable range of products imported from New Zealand, Australia and France. Facilities are extensive as there is a fairly large local yacht population. The new marina facilities at Port Moselle are situated in the heart of Noumea and are central to everything. When cruising around the Loyalty Islands or in the north of New Caledonia, one should pay the traditional call to the chief of the tribe or village. This is an important token gesture and the usual gift is a stick of tobacco, a length of cloth, a souvenir T-shirt from your country or yacht, or some money.
Rice or food may be appropriate for more remote tribes. Always ask permission before taking photographs or picking fruit and you will have a rewarding cultural experience.
Captain’s log: Grande Terre & the Loyalty Islands