Fun Ashore In New Caledonia
Guest Blogger: Jayne Gorman
Recently, Cruiseabout sent Jayne Gorman on a round trip journey from Sydney aboard the Carnival Legend to the Isle of Pines, Lifou, Mare and Noumea. Here is her final blog she has written about her experience. Make sure you read her other blogs, All Aboard the Fun Ship Carnival Legend & Dining on the Carnival Legend too.
Just when I thought I had found my favourite island, I liked next day’s port of call even better. On our 10-day South Pacific Island Cruise with Carnival Legend we visited 4 different ports in New Caledonia (Noumea, Lifou, Isle Of Pines and Maré). Through shore excursions we learnt about the Melanesian culture, sampled the local cuisine, experienced world-class snorkelling and soaked up the jaw-dropping scenery.
Noumea is the capital city of New Caledonia and one of the largest ports in the South Pacific. To get acquainted with its history and geography we started our day with a Noumea Discovery & Anse Vata Beach tour (priced at $64.99 per adult for 2 hours). As we drove through the centre of town, key landmarks and architecture styles were pointed out to us (like some of the only remaining traditional wooden houses that haven’t been destroyed by termites), before we were taken to Ouen Toro lookout for a panoramic view and photo opportunity. The tour then drops passengers along the long golden arc of Anse Vata beach, where I highly recommend you stop for a French pastry or baguette at Au Pain d’Antan, before stopping at Lemon Bay for a refreshment on the way back to the ship.
In the afternoon we set out on foot to discover ‘Centre Ville’, armed with a map we picked up at the Tourist Office in Anse Vata. As it was a Sunday many shops and businesses were closed but we did come across a local flea market and some vibrant street art, which was completely unexpected.
Lifou offered an opportunity to get to know a little more about life on the Loyalty Islands through the Melanesian Encounter (priced at $59.99 per adult for 2 hours). The lovely Genevieve from Hnathalo village met our group at the pier and escorted us to her chief’s hut, which was a 20-minute drive away. On route she explained how there are 3 districts in Lifou, each with their own chief, and that they often meet inside her chief’s traditional thatched hut to hold their version of a Parliament. Inside the thatched construction, which you must remove your shoes and wear a hat (as a mark of respect) to enter, Genevieve explained about Melanesian customs and cuisine.
Later we sampled a traditional bougna meal, which is cooked in the earth under a bed of hot coals, and washed the delicious mix of chicken, yam and banana down with the fresh juice of a coconut. We had a little time to look at the village church before being driven back to the pier and left to our own devices.
That afternoon we walked to a nearby chapel, which offered panoramic views of the island, before climbing into an underground cave and jumping into the freshwater pool. (This cost 1000 CFP Franc per adult paid locally.)
Snorkelers must not miss the opportunity to swim at Jinek Bay, home to one of the Pacific Islands most pristine marine ecologies and one of the world’s most diverse range of corals and marine life. The bay is a protected area so you must purchase a Marine Reserve Pass in order to swim there (a pass costs $18.99 per person for 3 hours and can be bought via the ship’s Shore Excursions). It’s also recommended you wear a Rash vest or eco-friendly sunscreen as the chemicals in regular sunscreen can damage the coral.
Even if you do not snorkel, Jinek Bay is a must see, with some of the more vibrant coral and fishes visible even when you’re above the water.
More on New Caledonia
Maré is home to the jaw-dropping Yejele Beach; the water is such a dazzling shade of turquoise we could hardly believe our eyes. The island, which has a population of 6,900, is very non-touristy, so it’s a great place to just sit back, relax and take in the scenery.
Yejele Beach is approximately 20 minutes drive from where the tender boats drop you, so it’s much too far to try and walk within the time you have at port. Be sure to book a beach shuttle via the ship (priced at $19.99 per adult) and maximise the time you have on the island. There are a number of huts dispersed along the beach selling local food and drink, so we used this opportunity to try the local beer and rehydrate with a fresh coconut (priced around 300 to 400 CFP Franc each). You can pay for food and drink in Australian dollars but you may be given change in the local currency. (We’d come prepared with CFP Francs we’d exchanged before leaving Sydney.)
Isle Of Pines
Every crew member we spoke to on the ship said the Isle of Pines was their favourite island – it took just 1 glimpse upon arrival for me to understand them. Named by Captain Cook after he caught sight of the tall pine trees lining the shore, the Isle Of Pines has some of the most draw-dropping beaches I’ve ever encountered. The tender boats drop you directly in front of 2 pristine white beaches (Kalemera and Kuta), so if you are just looking to snorkel and soak up the scenery you needn’t move any further.
Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy on the day we visited but we used the opportunity to visit the nearby village of Vao with a local taxi instead. (1000 CFP Franc per adult for 45 minutes.) Guests who booked the Turtle Bay and Brush Island Boating Adventure came back excitedly speaking of the loggerhead turtles and stingrays they had seen, whilst the Lunch At Le Meridien option was so popular it had sold out before we could book it. (Get in there early for that one!)
Even during the rain showers you could see through the clear waters and it wasn’t hard to imagine how magical this island must look when the sun is beaming.
Of the 4 islands we stopped at I couldn’t pick a favourite – although Maré has been on my mind a lot lately…
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