"New Caledonia: Mediterranean Melanesia" Top 5 Page for this destination New Caledonia by hunwagner
New Caledonia Travel Guide: 372 reviews and 641 photos
The French colony of New Caledonia, just east of Australia, is the southernmost of the Melanesian countries and the last one that is yet to gain its independence. Unsurprisingly, it has a flavour all her own: It is very neat and orderly, everything seems well-run, the food is excellent and the climate is balmy, rather than downright hot.
The landscape is one of stunning beauty, but even that has a distinctly Mediterranean touch, with trademark pines, rather than those familiar coconut palms gracing the picture-postcard perfect white-sand beaches.
Whether you are travelling around the main island of Grande Terre, one of the largest in the South Pacific, or visit the smaller outer islands, New Caledonia is a feast for the eyes.
The people are different too - while the native Kanak women turn their noses on Parisian fashion by continuing to wear the same colorful island-dresses as their Melanesian sisters in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, the local French turn their noses on their English-speaking neighbours who feed on greasy meat-pies and sliced bread.
I had been wondering quite a lot over whether New Caledonia would be worth a detour on my trip around the South Pacific. On one hand were promises of scenic beauty and friendly natives, on the other worrying rumours of sky-high prices, a disturbing colonial atmosphere and a natural environment ruined by mining.
As usual, there was some truth to all of this, but the balance was overwhelmingly positive. From the moment I landed here with a planeful of colorfully dressed Wallisians, I fell in love with this singular corner of the South Pacific, so refereshingly different from all her neighbours.
It may not be the cheapest place you will ever visit for sure, but an excellent infrastructure for individual travellers and local hospitality has greatly reduced expenses, and certainly did offer value for my money.
If you want to have an unusual South Pacific experience without the partying backpackers of Fiji, the packaged tourists of places like Tahiti or Rarotonga and the dishonest natives of Samoa, without sacrificing comforts as you'd have to in PNG or rural Vanuatu, this is just about the perfect place to go.
*** If you are a new visitor to this site, note that this is just the opening page!
To find the actual tips on individual attractions, transport and the like, you will have to click on those "Things to Do", "Off The Beaten Path" etc. links towards the bottom of this page. ***
"Kanak" is the catch-all term used to cover the various native, Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. Far from being a single, homogenous ethnic group, the Kanak speak dozens of different languages (not dialects!) and practice different customs, but all are distinctively Melanesian, being closer culturally to the people of Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea than to the French, Polynesian and Asian migrants they now have to share their land with. The most striking aspects of Kanak culture are the women's colorful dress and the traditional round huts seen in Kanak villages.
Sadly, Kanaks are now a minority within their homeland, making up only about 45% of New Caledonia's population. They still form the majority in the Northern Province and the Loyalty Islands though.
Kanaks tend to be very friendly and polite towards visitors, it is the usual thing for them to greet everyone in the countryside with a "Bonjour" and a smile. To make more meaningful contact with them, you will have to speak some French though.
The French annexed New Caledonia in 1850 and have shown no intention of leaving it ever since. They have taken much of the best land from the Kanaks for farming and mining, and with immigration from France continuing to this very day, they now make up some 35% of the population.
They are divided between the "Caldoche" who were born in New Caledonia and have a somewhat distinct culture, and the "metros" who have recently come over from France to find a well-paying job here.
The French well and truly dominate Noumea, and the west coast of Grande Terre also has a majority Caldoche population.
For all the talk among English-speaking nations about the French being arrogant, ignorant and what not, once out of Noumea, I found all of them very friendly and helpful - more so than their neighbours Down Under, actually! ;-)
- Pros:Stunning scenic beauty, very friendly locals, balmy climate
- Cons:High prices and limited communication possiblities - if you don't speak French!
- In a nutshell:A unique corner of the South Pacific well worth visiting!
One of the best things about New Caledonia is the it feels largely unspoilt by tourism. Only Noumea and the outer... more travel advice
Several upmarket hotels in New Caledonia offer Tahitian dance shows to their guests. This is actually somewhat strange... more travel advice
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