01.02.2016 - 02.02.2016
Our first stop was Noumea in New Caledonia. New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km east of Australia. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets.
New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km2. Its population of 268,767 (Aug. 2014 census) consists of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), people of European descent, Polynesian people, and Southeast Asian people.The capital of the territory is Nouméa.
Noumea is a little piece of France. Before World War II, New Caledonia was a little known and seldom-visited French possession known for its penal colony and its natural resources. (Nickel smelting still plays a major role in the island economy.) The island is famed for its white-sand beaches while its barrier reef is the world's second longest.
In 1774, James Cook thought the island's rugged hills resembled those of his native Scotland. Hence he christened the island New Caledonia. The island and its outlying groups became a French colony in 1854 and an overseas department of France in 1956.
As the ship docked we were greeted by some of the locals singing and dancing their traditional music.
We departed the ship and we went for a scenic drive through Place des Cocotiers, a popular meeting place lined by palm trees and centenary flame red trees. We drove past old colonial houses in the Fauborg Blanchot district, one of Nouméa's oldest residential districts.
We continued on the Promenade Pierre Vernier along the waterfront to Ouen Toro Lookout where two Australian cannons from WWII stand guard.
Noumea from the lookout.
As New Caledonia boasts the world's largest lagoon and a barrier reef that is second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the perspective from this tip of the peninsula revealed the bays and beaches as well as small marine reserves fringed with coral reefs.
We went to Anse Vata Beach, where we relaxed on the beach for a while.
Returning to the ship we drove past the Noumea Yacht Club, the Southern Province Government House and Baie de l'Orphelinat (Bay of Orphans), named in memory of the orphans of Empress Eugénie sent to New Caledonia to be brides for the first settlers. Along the bay sits a special centennial monument in the form of an anchor, erected in 1953 to celebrate a century of French presence in New Caledonia. We headed back into town as wanted to visit the USA memorial. This memorial is dedicated to U.S. service members who helped ensure the freedom of New Caledonia during World War II. The monument was erected in 1992, commemorating the arrival of the first 20,000 US troops in Nouméa. Over several years, nearly a million American soldiers stayed on the island during the Second World War.
There was also some carvings nearby.
It was so hot and humid here and we were melting by the time we got back to the ship so it was nice so see cold water and cold towels awaiting us at the foot of the ship.
We went out on deck and farwelled Noumea.
The next day we arrived at Maré Island which is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia. The island is 42 km long and 16 to 33 km wide. It lies northeast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia's mainland. Maré is a raised coral atoll, a former atoll that has been lifted about 120 meters. The interior of the island is the former lagoon, surrounded by a rim of higher land that was the ring of reef islets. Its fossil coral rock is honeycombed with caves, pools, and pits of all sizes, whose sharp edges make for difficult walking. Because of the lifting, the current shoreline is relatively recent and supports only short sections of nearshore fringing reef, unlike the extensive barrier reef found on the main island of New Caledonia, Grande Terre. The narrow beaches of Maré are often backed by cliffs.
To get to land we needed to arrive by tender. So we all packed into the tenders and off we went to dry land.
We visited Yedjele Beach.
It was our first remote beach stop and the water was so lovely.
We went snorkelling. There wasn't a lot to see but we did see something.
When we returned to the tender we wandered around a little market that the locals had set up.
Once again we stayed on deck to farewell a wonderful day in Mare.