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New Caledonia

Main attractions

Baie des Tortues, New Caledonia
Baie des Tortues / Thomas Cuelho, / CC BY 2.0

New Caledonia does not belong to mainstream tourist destinations but this Pacific island country is a true gem with many unusual landmarks. Among the highlights should be mentioned:

  • Unique ecosystems. The island has been isolated from the rest of world some 85 – 60 million years ago. In the ancient Gondwanan forests during these millions of years evolved thousands of plant species not met anywhere else in the world.
  • Karst formations. Islands contain many interesting caves, sinkholes and cliffs formed by karst processes.
  • Fossil finds. When the first people came here, they met such amazing animals as terrestrial crocodiles, giant horned turtles and enormous, 1.6 m tall flightless birds, making up to 5 m high mounds (in the 19th century considered to be a burial mounds of ancient cultures).

Natural landmarks

La Poule Couveuse in Hienghène, New Caledonia
La Poule Couveuse in Hienghène / Vincent Chaigneau, / CC BY 2.0

Cliffs and rock formations

  • Bonhomme de Bourail – South Province. Enormous, amazing hoodoo – rock column at the sea. The hoodoo resembles a man with a hat.
  • Hienghène cliffs (Rocher de Lindéralique) – North Province. Beautiful, rugged limestone cliffs rising above the lush tropical vegetation and southern seas. Impressive is Lindéralique Cave.
  • L’Aiguille de Prony – South Province. Amazing reef, formed by warm (up to 39° C), mineral rich spring discharging in the sea. It is located at 35 m depth and here has formed up to 5 m high, 15 m wide formation consisting of stone needles, stalactites and stalagmites.
  • La Poule Couveuse in Hienghène (the Brooding Hen) – North Province. Amazing limestone rock formation – island. These rocks from the different viewpoints remind Gothic cathedral or sphinx or a hen sitting on eggs.
Trou Bleu d’Aben, New Caledonia
Trou Bleu d’Aben / tata_aka_T, / CC BY 2.0

Caves and sinkholes

  • Grottes d’Adio – North Province. Longest known caves in New Caledonia, explored part is 6 km long. Formed by underground rivers and in some places leads to secluded forested valleys. Contains rare, beautiful speleothems.
  • Grotte de Quango – Loyalty Islands, Lifou. Magnificent cave – sinkhole. It starts as a sinkhole with a diameter of 60 m, with a 12 m deep pool ath the bottom. Explored length of a beautiful, ornate cave is 461 m.
  • Koumac Caves – North Province. Several caves formed in limestone. The longest one is 3.7 km long, with many beautiful cave formations.
  • Le Bone de la Léproserie – Loyalty Islands, Maré. Magnificent sinkhole, which starts with some 50 m deep well, it continues with a 40 m deep lake. Entrance is only 25 m wide, but the lake at its base is 160 m wide. Contains 350,000 m³ of fresh water.
  • Trou Bleu d’Aben (Troue Bleu d'Anawa) – Loyalty Islands, Ouvea. Impressive sinkhole, filled with water. Upper layer is freshwater, deeper comes sea water. Near the bottom the water is anoxic, with a foggy substance. The lake is more than 30 m deep.
  • Trou de Bone – Loyalty Islands, Maré. Impressive, 40 m deep sinkhole with a lake at its bottom. The roots of banyan trees are hanging down the cliff and reach the water.
  • Trou Poultier – North Province. One of the most beautiful places in New Caledonia – a large karst depression, 3 km long and up to 200 m deep. Interesting features are remnants – limestone towers.
  • Wedrumel Cave – Loyalty Islands, Lifou. Some 6 km long cave, adorned with ancient paintings. Drawings show birds and tortoises.
Chutes de la Madeleine, New Caledonia
Chutes de la Madeleine / Mickaël T., / CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Cascade de Colnett – North Province. Large waterfall with several steps.
  • Cascade de Tao (Tao waterfall) – North Province. The tallest of the many waterfalls in New Caledonia. Magnificent waterfall with several plunges.
  • Chutes de la Madeleine – South Province. Spectacular waterfall on Riviere des Lacs with one wide plunge, 10 m high.

Fossil finds

  • Kanumera fossil find – South Province, Isle of Pines. A group of ancient sinkholes, where rich finds of extinct, unique fauna of New Caledonia was found. Here were found bones of 6 species of enormous birds.
  • Pindai Caves – North Province. Three caves. A rich find of recently extinct New Caledonian fauna – giant horned turtles Meiolania, enormous bird Sylviornis (1.2 – 1.6 m tall), unique terrestrial crocodile Mekosuchus inexpectatus and many other animals. Some of these extinct animals were contemporaries with people.

Ecosystems

  • Baie des Tortues (Turtle Bay) – South Province. Visually very impressive and striking grove of the rare Araucaria luxurians trees at the beach.
  • Nekoro dry forest – North Province. One of the best remaining stands of New Caledonian dry forest with an area of 251 ha. Contains one of the largest populations of the beautiful Captaincookia margaretae
  • Pindai dry forest – North Province. Very valuable relic of dry forest. This virgin stand has an area of just 2 ha but it contains 53 species of trees and shrubs, most of them – endemic to New Caledonia.
  • Riviere Bleue rainforest – South Province. Remnant of New Caledonian rainforest, growing on ultrabasic rocks. Contains large amount of unique species of plants – more than 400 species are endemic to New Caledonia. Here lives the densest population of unique kagu bird (Rhynochetos jubatus).
  • Tiae dry forest (Tiéa dry forest) - near Pouembout, North Province. One of the last remaining stands of New Caledonian dry forest, also one of the last stands of one of the most beautiful flowering plants - Ixora margaretae, known also as Captaincookia margaretae.

Other natural landmarks

Cœur de Voh, New Caledonia
Cœur de Voh / Bananaflo, / GNU public license
  • Cœur de Voh – North Province. Bog with an area of 4 ha. The shape of this bog is amazing: it is a perfect stylized heart form, what has turned this bog into a well known attraction.
  • Grand Kaori, Parc Provinciel de la Riviere Bleue – South Province. Possibly the largest known tree in New Caledonia. This kauri tree (Agathis lanceolata) is 40 m tall, with diameter 2.7 m at breast height (circumference approximately 8.5 m). There are tales that in earlier times diameter of kauri trees in New Caledonia reached even 7 m (circumference – 22 m).
  • Népouite find in Népoui Mine – North Province. Type locality of spectacular, bright green mineral, which contains much nickel.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs, New Caledonia
Petroglyphs, New Caledonia / Cyrille Lemoing, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Archaeological monuments

  • Bogota peninsula petroglyphs – North Province. A site with numerous petroglyphs. Like other New Caledonian petroglyphs, these signs are similar to European Neolithic petroglyphs.
  • Hnaened burial mound in Maré Island (Hnaenedr) – Loyalty Islands, Maré. An ancient fortification wall of coral slabs, 1 – 2 m high, 1 m wide, with a perimeter of 600 m. Built sometimes around 250 AD. Some stone blocks of the fortifications in Maré Island weigh up to 5 tons.
  • Foué peninsula Lapita pottery finds – North Province. Group of closely located sites, where Lapita pottery was discovered. These specific, sophisticated articles were made sometimes around 800 – 400 BC by (possibly) the first people in this part of the world.
  • Montfaoué – North Province. The richest petroglyph site in New Caledonia. Here over a 200 m distance are scattered 156 large petroglyphs which remind European petroglyphs of Neolithic Age.
  • Tiwi rock shelter – South Province. The oldest known settlement of people in New Caledonia. Here the pottery of Podtanéan cultural phase has been left sometimes around 1 240 BC. Found also sherds of pottery belonging to Lapita and Koné phases.
Nouméa St. Joseph Cathedral, New Caledonia
Nouméa St. Joseph Cathedral / Eustaquio Santimano, / CC BY 2.0

Architecture monuments

  • Amédée lighthouse – South Province. The tallest metal lighthouse in the world – 57 m. Prefabricated in Paris, built in 1864.
  • Fort Teremba – South Province. Massive fort and prison, built in 1871, redesigned in 1878. It was built to supervise the prisoners from France and to protect from the Kanaks.
  • Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre – South Province. Thi centre celebrates the cultural heritage of indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia. Centre has original architecture, blending traditional Kanak architecture and modern inspirations. It is designed by Renzo Piano and built in 1998.
  • Nouméa St. Joseph Cathedral – South Province. Large church in Neo-Gothic style, built in 1887 – 1897. The building is 56 m long, with two 25 m tall towers. Towers do not have any spires due to frequent cyclones. 26 stained glass windows and valuable interior decorations in high quality.

List of described attractions by provinces

New Caledonia is a sui generis collectivity of France and is divided into three provinces:

Loyalty Islands
ArrowLe Bone de LéproserieSinkholes
ArrowTrou de BoneSinkholes
North Province
South Province

Map of New Caledonia

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