New Caledonia

Capital Nouméa
Currency Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF)
Population 216,494 (Jul 2006 estimate)
Electricity 220V, 50Hz (type F europlug)
Country code 687
Time zone UTC +11h

New Caledonia (French:Nouvelle-Caledonie) is a dependent overseas territory of France lying in the western Pacific Ocean, in the Coral Sea, to the east of Australia and west of Vanuatu. The territory consists of the main island of Grand Terre, the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyauté), and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls.

New Caledonia offers beaches, mountaintop fondue in chalets, camping, amazing snorkelling and diving, and fabulous French food.

Regions

New Caledonia regions - Color-coded map
Grande Terre
The main island. It is one of the largest islands in the Pacific. The barrier reef lying off New Caledonia is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in size.
Loyalty Islands
Three large populated islands, including Îles Loyauté, just east of Grande Terre.
Île des Pins
Was one of the few places in the Pacific with trees tall and sturdy enough to provide replacement masts for ships.
Belep Archipelago
The islets and reefs to the north of Grande Terre, with a small community living on Belep Isle.
Chesterfield Islands
Uninhabited and incredibly remote, the Chesterfield Islands are an expedition.

Cities


Understand

New Caledonia is a collectivité d'outre-mer of France with a special status which allows it to have its own laws and its own government in anticipation of becoming completely independent in a few decades. New Caledonia sets its own rules for everything except for national defence and foreign policy, which are set by France.

The people of New Caledonia are split into 5 major groups:

Since the events of Ouvéa cave hostage-taking in 1988, there has been a political movement towards more autonomy in New Caledonia as listed on the UN list of non-self governing territories, and it was decided in the Nouméa Accord (Accords de Nouméa) that the territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on the future status of the territory (including possible independence) between 2014 and 2019, at a time of its choosing.

History

Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island became a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864.

The islands have been an overseas territory of France since 1956.

The 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands formally under French law. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s seems to have dissipated. A referendum on independence was to have been held in 1998 but was eventually cancelled, as the Noumea accord decided; a new referendum is scheduled for after 2014.

In New Caledonia, as elsewhere in France, the national holiday is Bastille Day (14 July).

Climate

New Caledonia has a semi-tropical climate, modified by southeast trade winds. It is often hot and humid in January and February. The islands are subject to tropical cyclones, most frequent from November to March. During winter (April to August) the daytime temperature is around 22 degrees. The water may still be warm, but it often feels too cool to really want to go swimming.

Geography

The main island of New Caledonia is one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean and its terrain consist of coastal plains with interior mountains. The highest point is Mont Panie (1,628m).

Grand Terre is rich in minerals, and is an important source of many ores, mainly nickel and chromium. There is a mountainous interior green with subtropical foliage. The outlying islands are coral-based, and have stunning white sand, and sport palm trees.

Get in

A number of items are restricted by customs and biosecurity regulations. Consult the the official flyer (in French) for more information.

By plane

By boat

Noumea is a popular port of call for people sailing around the Pacific, though most dare not sail during cyclone season.

Get around

Forget about Google Maps, it is grossly incomplete in New Caledonia and often wrong. OpenStreetMap is a much better option.

By car

Rentals - cheapest are:

Note that, like in France, automatic cars are not common and most rental cars are manual.

By bus or taxi

There are two main bus services in New Caledonia:

A taxi from downtown to your hotel will cost approximately XPF850 each way, compared to XPF210 each way by bus. Taxis do not cruise the streets to pick up passengers as in other cities; they have to be ordered by phone 28 35 12) or boarded in one of the taxi ranks. This makes the bus a good alternative as the total journey time is not much longer than by taxi.

If you are staying in a hotel or other accommodation you can just ask them to call you a taxi. The same applies if you are shopping in Noumea – if you have just purchased something, even groceries in a small store, they will be happy to call you a taxi.

Hitching

Hitching is much easier than in metropolitan France but, like in most places, with the same inherent risks. Around celebrations there are many drunk drivers on the roads. Locals prefer to travel during daylight hours when possible as the roads at night are very dangerous and few drivers have sufficient insurance.

See

New Caledonia Reef

Do

Snorkelling, diving, windsurfing

Relaxing, tanning, and generally doing nothing

Cuisine

Hiking and camping

Talk

The official language is French though most locals speak New Caledonian patois, and it is difficult to find English speakers outside of Noumea except where a few pockets of English speakers are left amongst the elderly in the north-east. In Noumea, French, English, and Japanese are widely spoken at hotels, restaurants, and shops. To enjoy a place like this, you should really endeavour to learn some French or the local languages.

Buy

The cartoon series La Brousse en Folie and Le Sentier Des Hommes by Bernard Berger will give you an insight in the local culture and tradition. The comics are written in French, the former imitating the local accent and grammar (or lack thereof).

Other than that, plenty of conventional souvenir shops may be found throughout Noumea.

Costs

New Caledonia is very expensive, since much of the food needs to be imported. There is no culture of bargaining either and attempting such might cause offence.

Eat

Buy food from local markets, which are common to almost every town.

Restaurants are expensive. You can eat quite well for about 10EUR at a couple of eateries opposite the library in town. For travellers on a budget, you'll need to observe what the Kanaks do for the best deals.

French food is (obviously) a speciality, but the range of foods available can be a little limited.

Dishes

Drink

Try kava. You can recognize a Kava bar by a red light outside and dim lighting inside. It is about XPF100 compared to XPF500 for a beer, so about a fifth of the price. You drink the Kava immediately once you've purchased it and then go off to a dark bench to relax.

Sleep

There are many places around New Caledonia that are affordable and in good condition. All you have to do is search around and you will find somewhere to sleep within your price range.

Work

Volunteering

Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique VCAT. Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be between 18 and 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.

Stay safe

New Caledonia is fairly safe, but it is wise to take the following precautions:

Stay healthy

Iodine or a similar disinfectant is invaluable to fight off small infections, which quite commonly occur in most sores and scratches.

Some mosquitoes carry the dengue fever virus. There is no vaccination for this, so it is important to prevent mosquito bites to the extent possible. Consult a doctor for more information, and see the Wikivoyage article.

Connect

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, August 01, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.