Lagoons of New Caledonia, France

New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie). France so far away.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia, which you will discover, is the third largest island in the South Pacific, after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. The archipelago has the world’s largest lagoon, 13,000 square nautical miles of shimmering water, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The lagoon is almost entirely surrounded by 800 nautical miles of pristine reef, the second longest after the Great Barrier Reef.

Almost everyone has heard of the legendary Tahiti and Bora Bora in Polynesia. New Zealand is easy, too. But ask most people to show New Caledonia on a map, and they won’t know which hemisphere to start looking in. Loved the story of how they came to get insurance before the trip. The clerk, after finding out where they were going, thoughtfully said: “I’ve wanted to go to Africa for a long time, too.”

New Caledonia

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

Nickel and tourism. Convicts

The capital of New Caledonia – Noumea: the only, as they say, “normal” city in the country. 100,000 people out of 210,000 inhabitants live there. The city’s seaport and international airport of Nouméa receive foreign tourists (about 100 thousand come each year). But while New Caledonia is developing not only due to tourism. The country – the world’s storehouse of nickel: a quarter (!) of all reserves is hidden here. However, to develop further, the mining operations have to be increased, which requires a better infrastructure. That is why, to avoid dependence only on nickel mining, the country actively develops tourism.

Climate. For residents, on average, “hot” is 25-27 degrees Celsius, and cold is 19-24 degrees.

Forests occupy 40% of the main island, and of the 3 thousand plants, 80% are endemic, that is, are not found anywhere else.

Caledonia is the ancient name of Scotland. Scotsman James Cook named the islands he discovered as part of his homeland in 1774. At that time, New Caledonia was inhabited by the Kanak, a Melanesian tribe that spoke different dialects of the Melanesian language. French began to be imposed after France took over the islands in 1853. The French decided to take convicts to the oceanic islands, following the principle of Australia. In particular, participants of the Paris Commune were exiled there. The Kanaks were not too happy about this situation, but there was nothing they could do – their rebellions were suppressed by the colonizers.

The criminals, who were exiled to New Caledonia, were called “scoundrels in paradise.

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

The capital of .

The city stretches for 15 kilometers. The central square is a green park, around which all the business and cultural buildings of the capital are located. At 10 kilometers from the city center is the new building of the Cultural Center Tjibau. The center was specially created to preserve the traditions and cultural heritage of the Kanak and other peoples of Oceania. You can pay attention to the colonial-style Berngheim Library building, as well as the Territorial Museum, the city museum, and others. But it’s better to just wander around. The city has many old squares and streets, as well as colonial buildings.

And after all, this is France: no baguettes for you!

The Neuville area is famous for its ancient ruins and the isolated bay of Kendou, an ideal place for swimming and snorkeling.

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The Quartier-Latina area is considered the most “French” area of the city, but north of it begins the industrial areas of Doniambo, where the mining and mineral processing plants are concentrated.

New Caledonia

Ens Vata is a sandy beach two kilometers long that lies to the south of the city. Undoubtedly the most beautiful beach of the capital and one of the most famous places in the world for wind and kitesurfing. The crystal clear water, the comfortable shore, the rich underwater world and the permanent winds make it one of the best places for active holidays.

The entire coastline between Ens Vata and Baia des Citrons is lined with first class hotels with well-developed leisure facilities.

The Baya de la Moselle harbor is one of the best anchorages in Melanesia. At the eastern end of the Tjibau Peninsula lie the affluent suburbs of St. Mary’s and Uemo, with an abundance of colonial-style mansions.

New Caledonia

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

New Caledonia in all its glory

Nature is the first of the attractions of New Caledonia. Beaches with golden sand, relict plants, lagoons with clear water, coral reefs, waterfalls, caves. This is a treasure that attracts even the most experienced travelers. There is no blood-sucking gnats and mosquitoes, but there is a unique bird kagu, which can not fly, and its “singing” like a dog. There are about 2.5 thousand unique plant species. They are called endemics, they are the only representatives of their species on Earth. In this sense, New Caledonia is the largest botanical garden of natural origin.

New Caledonia

Vegetation is lush and bright. Palms and ferns, orchids and huge Norfolk pines peacefully coexist. The latter, like pyramids, towering above the other trees. The water in the lagoons is turquoise, at times seeming to be drawn, and the sand is so fine that it appears as soft absorbent cotton when touched. In the Bay of St. Joseph (Baje de St. Joseph) pirogue rides are available. In the lagoon Gaje excellent diving, there are instructors, visibility under water up to 40 m. Independent scuba diving is possible with a PADI certificate.

In the vicinity of the capital there are many unique natural attractions, including the mysterious caves of Fatanaue. Now they are attractive not only for their beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, but also for the historical artifacts found in the caves. Here researchers discovered a pantheon that was founded during the time of the Kanak tribes. Important religious and social events were held in the caves. Next to the complex of caves you can see several beautiful waterfalls and cliffs.

New Caledonia

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

Valleys, outskirts and villages

The district of Jengen. Near this miniature settlement there are incredibly beautiful forests. They are interspersed with vast rocky formations. In addition to the huge ancient trees, there are huge rocks and waterfalls falling from them. When all the natural attractions have been explored, it is definitely worth checking out the local cultural center Goa-Ma-Bwarhat. The center holds interesting folklore performances.

The settlement of La Foa. It is surrounded by incredibly beautiful pine forests and impenetrable thickets of reeds. The town itself has a number of historic buildings from different eras. Its main symbol is the historic Pazerel-de-Marguerite bridge, whose construction was designed by students of Gustave Eiffel. In the city there is an old fortress Teremba, which was built to protect the coastal area. For fans – here is one of the most interesting historical markets of the state.

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New Caledonia

The northwestern part of the island is a place for those who prefer to spend time away from people. There are no residential settlements here, much of the area is occupied by mountain ranges and vast savannahs. There are several hiking trails in the area. See rare tropical plants and wild coconut groves. You can see untouched man-made lagoons with water of turquoise color. Here among the mountains and rocks there are thermal springs of Kroen, the water of which is famous for its amazing healing properties.

Amue Pass Valley. Vast vineyards, nearby wineries, the capital hotels organize excursions here. Guides tell the history of the wineries, the intricacies of production, and the final touch is a tasting of popular varieties. Interestingly, the vines originally came from France, where the same varieties are still produced today. However, the intensity and abundance of tropical sunshine make the grapes richer and the wine is sweeter than French grapes of the same brand.

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

Fort Teremba is a military fortress built in 1878. In addition to military purposes, it was intended for the detention of prisoners. Gradually, the fort as a fortress has lost its relevance, and since 1989 it received the status of a historical monument and was converted into a museum. No longer a military, but a very peaceful history opens to tourists near the capital at the reindeer farm, which raises a large herd. The Rousa farm provides meat for all interested New Caledonian customers. In addition, all of the capital’s restaurants include local venison on their menus. There were no other mammals on the main island except bats, in which sense the presence of deer takes on a special uniqueness. The animals were brought in relatively recently, and they have taken root. Now the farm is one of the attractions, there are periodic excursions, one of them can become and you.

The west coast is almost completely separated from the ocean by coral reefs. The result looks stunningly colorful and contrasting. Turquoise with a view of the bottom of the water line along the shore, and the darkening ocean strata behind the reef. Occasionally there are waters of blue – bays suitable for yacht anchorage. Shallow waters formed by the reef – the lagoon, the best places for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Photo: Dmitry Malov’s blog

New Caledonia – Islands

Île des Pins, the most beautiful island, is not far from the capital. The island of Pan is small, its width is 8 kilometers, and its length is 14 kilometers. He is popular among divers with their underwater grottoes and the island has many beaches with white coral sand. The island has thickets of pine trees – this is reflected in the name. This is one of the most interesting and expensive resorts in the world, which is popular among honeymooners. The island has the residence of the governor, and the ruins of the prison. There you can climb to the top of the cliffs of Cape Nga, the height – 262 meters above sea level. Or you can go down into the famous caves Grotte de Wimbney and Grotte d’Ouachia.

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New Caledonia

The island of Tiga, is located north of the island of Maaré. It protrudes a little above water, just a coral atoll that rises from the ocean floor. Its area is 12 square kilometers. According to legend, it was a sea turtle that agreed to carry a rat from Lough to Mare. The turtle never made it there, stopping halfway. The island is home to a local tribe, the Tiga, who harvest copra and fish. There are no attractions here, but many tourists go here to get away from nature.

Loyalty Islands are located 100 kilometers from the island of New Caledonia. The Loyalty Islands are 4 inhabited islands Tiga, Uwea, Maare and Lifu. They consist of coral atolls, their total area is 2500 square kilometers. For tourists, it is of interest as an eco-friendly shore and beaches with white coral sand. There are colorful cliffs, groves of coconut palms and dense rainforests. An excellent place for fishing enthusiasts: the deep-water strait between the islands and New Caledonia has a large stock of fish. Villages with bungalows and guest huts for tourists have been built on the islands, and there are hotels as well.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia welcomes President Macron

In May 2018, Macron was the first French president to visit the Loyalty Islands province. Exactly 30 years ago, on May 5, 1988, armed pro-independence supporters captured French gendarmes there. As a result of the assault, 21 people were killed at the time, among them 19 separatists.

Emmanuel Macron handed the collegiate government of New Caledonia two acts of possession of the territory. The deeds are of September 24 and 29, 1853, signed by Napoleon III. The documents were formerly held in the Archives d’Outremer in Aix-en-Provence.

France without New Caledonia is not France. – From Macron’s speech.

And gives up independence.

Proponents of independence have been pushing for a referendum for more than thirty years. The referendum was the result of many years of struggle waged by the Kanak factions. It was waged both by armed methods and by negotiations with Paris.

A year after the end of World War II, New Caledonia received the status of an overseas territory. This status implied enhanced self-government and representation in the central government. A few years later, all islanders were granted full French citizenship.

In 1983, the French government expanded the autonomy of the archipelago and promised to hold a referendum on its status in five years. This did not help; a year later, the Kanaks still proclaimed an independent socialist republic. The French government responded by declaring a state of emergency. Then it held another election, which was won by the supporters of independence.

The treaty was replaced by a new one in 1998. France retained control over foreign policy, defense and currency regulation. All other issues were left to local government. Paris pledged to hold a referendum on independence no later than 2018.

New Caledonia remains with France.

Today, New Caledonia’s budget is more than ten percent dependent on aid from Paris, which exceeds a billion euros annually. If independence was recognized, the islands risked being left without these subsidies. In addition, New Caledonians have the opportunity to study at French universities and be treated in French hospitals. The standard of living there is substantially better than in the neighboring independent countries – for example, the GDP per capita is ten times higher than in Vanuatu.

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First bottom line. New Caledonians voted against independence from France in November 2018. Secession was supported by 43.6% of the citizens of the archipelago, while 56.4% were in favor of maintaining the current status – a colony. The turnout in the referendum exceeded 80%.

France is still here.

The agreement signed in 1998 stipulated several referendums. The second referendum, according to the decree of the Ministry of the Interior, is officially postponed to October 4, 2020.

The world’s most famous heart

In 1999, photographer Jan Arthus-Bertrand placed a picture of the Heart of Waugh on the cover of his book Earth from Above. The book contains images of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and was published with the support of UNESCO. Since then, more than 4 million copies have been sold, and the famous heart has appeared on T-shirts, stamps, notebooks and embroidered cotton towels. You can admire the very same Heart of Waugh from a high altitude in an ultralight aircraft, as the photographer himself once did.

New Caledonia

Patrick MESNER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Compared to 1999, the Heart of Waugh has become greener: the mangrove forest has grown, and the yellow spot in the middle, which contrasted with the green edges, has disappeared. Nevertheless, its shape has remained, and the surrounding mangrove mountains and turquoise lagoon have endowed the landscape with incredible beauty! The heart of Vaud is a naturally formed mangrove that is a protected ecosystem.

New Caledonia is so far away France.

You should go there with a very good time allowance: 2 – 4 weeks. Such places reveal and benefit only if you relax. Another option – as a point of sea cruise. But then it will be just a stop for a couple of days.

From Moscow or Paris you will spend, taking into account even one transfer, 20 hours. This is at best.

And to be limited to Nouméa and the main island is a waste of time and money. That means you need to plan trips to adjacent islands.

Another important point. In New Caledonia, there is almost nothing (adequate) to rent “a day at a time. Only in advance. Keep this in mind.

New Caledonia’s lagoons are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

At the 32nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Quebec City July 2-10, 2008, New Caledonia’s lagoons, located in the Pacific Ocean several degrees north of the Tropic of Capricorn, were added to the World Heritage List.

One year, one site

The natural project presented by France deserves international recognition because of its uniqueness, good preservation and showiness.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has approved this site proposed by France for inclusion on the World Heritage List. The lagoons of New Caledonia, an archipelago in Melanesia (Oceania), a unique region in France’s possessions.

Each country can nominate only one cultural and one natural site each year.

In 2008, 27 new monuments were added to the list: Nineteen cultural (including Berlin’s Art Nouveau housing estates in Germany, built in the early 20th century by avant-garde architects Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius, Martin Wagner and Hans Scharone, and the sacred forests of the Majikenda people in Kenya, containing traces of a large number of fortified Midjikenda villages) and eight natural sites (including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve 100 km northwest of Mexico City and the Socotra Archipelago in southeastern Yemen, which has become a real legend for its unique flora and marine ecosystem).

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Of the 878 cultural and natural sites on the list, 32 are located in France. The inclusion is decided annually by the World Heritage Committee, which includes representatives from 21 countries that are signatories to the World Heritage Convention.

Recognizing the unique biodiversity of New Caledonia

The “Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Related Ecosystems” project, in turn, was selected as a candidate for the list of natural sites.

Six magnificent sites, spread over 15,000 km2 – 60% of the lagoon’s total area – were selected, including a continuous barrier reef 1,600 km long, the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and reefs covering 800 km2. It is the first site on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List in the French overseas territories. New Caledonia is located in the Pacific Ocean, 1,500 km from Australia and 2,000 km north of New Zealand and 20,000 km from France.

French Minister of State for Ecology, Energy, Development and Long-Term Planning Jean-Louis Borleau was delighted with the inclusion of these sites on the World Heritage List. “During the International Year of the Ocean, another step was taken toward achieving the goal set forth in the official documents of the Grenelle Environmental Forum to ensure the serious protection of 2% of the territory within ten years,” he said in an official statement. – The inclusion of these sites on the World Heritage List will encourage the development of sustainable tourism that respects the monuments of nature (in particular scuba diving), as well as ensuring the appropriate management of the lagoon’s natural resources”.

Selection criteria

So what were the criteria that determined the site’s inclusion on the World Heritage List?

According to the Maison de la Nouvelle-Caledonie in Paris, the main criteria were “remoteness from current sources of dynamic impact (especially mining), its exceptional nature and good conservation, management and control measures”.

The exceptional nature of these sites is determined by the diversity of plant and animal life. Various species of fish, amazing species of animals (such as humpbacks, seabirds, nautilus, dugongs, turtles, etc.), mangrove swamps, habitats of aquatic plants and algae, a variety of benthic invertebrates (such as shrimps and giant clams) and natural elements (ocean currents, geological structures, geomorphological formations, etc.) can be found here.

Current knowledge of the biodiversity of New Caledonia’s natural environment suggests that New Caledonia is home to 15,000 different plant and animal species. Moreover, of the 900 coral species known in the world, 700 are represented in New Caledonia.

Being granted international status in no way means creating a nature reserve. Consequently, it will continue to be possible to fish there, of course, in accordance with the existing regulations, and to enjoy the luxurious nature and the paradisiacal life that the lagoons offer.

www.ifrecor.nc : Ifrecor (French Coral Reef Initiative).

July 2008 (updated January 2020) Author: Annik Bianchini Direction de la communication et de l`information sous direction de la communication

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