New Caledonia

Environment:

New Caledonia is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. The main island of Grande Terre is one of the largest in the Pacific, and the rest are in the Loyalty Islands archipelago. The terrain consists of coastal plains with interior mountains. The highest point is Mont Panie at 1,628 meters (5,341 feet).

Environmental issues include erosion caused by mining exploitation, and forest fires. It is unclear what territorial level body is responsible for the protection of the land environment…. Les Affaires Maritimes is responsible for fishing and the marine environment. Of the three administrative divisions of New Caledonia, only the southern province, Province Sud, seems to have a Direction de l’Environnement and Observatoire de l’Environnement. New Caledonia is generally referred to as a biodiversity hotspot, and as such there is a French language web portal dedicated to it, Biodiversité de la Nouvelle-Calédonie. Nickel mining has taken a tremendous toll on the environment, not only in terms of strip mining the land, but also on the sea and air. The nickel plant in Goro, largely Brazilian owned, is one of the biggest in the world. Rheebu Nuu is a native Kanak environmental organization, run by local Kanak politician Raphael Mapou, in opposition to the Goro nickel plant, the Vale Grand Sud Plant.

In 2008, the New Caledonia Barrier Reef was inscribed into World Heritage as “World Heritage Site Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems”. In 2012, Conservation International announced New Caledonia added a 1.4 million square kilometer marine protected area to the Pacific Oceanscape initiative. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, a regional intergovernmental organization headquartered in New Caledonia, is concerned with a variety of issues, including climate change. Corail Vivant (Living Coral) is a local NGO founded by prominent environmentalists, Didier Baron and Bruno Van Peteghem, largely responsible the 2008 World Heritage listing. Corail Vivant is a member of Ensemble pour la Planète (Together for the Planet) a coalition of 17 associations, founded in 2006. The environmental education center, Centre d’Initiation à l’Environnement en Nouvelle-Calédonie, was founded by the “Association pour la Sauvegarde de la Nature Néo-calédonienne” in 1996.

Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie is the ornithological society of New Caledonia. The endangered Kagu (Cagou) is New Caledonia’s national bird. Aquarium des Lagons serves as the national aquarium in the capital, Noumea. Sea snakes or krait, known as “tricot rayé“, are common in New Caledonia, also on land, and although venomous don’t usually bother people. The Wikiloc guide to trails and waypoints contains a good list of the Best Hiking trails in New Caledonia. There is a website dedicated to the Grande Randonnée NC1, a well marked 100 kilometer hiking trail through the central range of the southern province.

Aventure Pulsion leads a variety of adventure tours, including kayaking. Sarramea Decouverte (Discovering Sarramea) offers nature tours around their remote village. Yala Ranch is a center for horse riding in Dumbea. Mary D offers cruise excursions to Amedee Island, location of historic Amedee lighthouse. Glisse Attitude is a kitesurf school in Noumea. Aquanature organizes snorkeling and supervised “free-diving” trips. Nouvelle Calédonie Plongée (New Caledonia Diving) is an online guide to the main diving centers of New Caledonia.

Culture:

The indigenous people of New Caledonia are Melanesians, known as Kanaks. New Caledonia was first sighted and named by the British in the 18th century, on the second voyage of Captain James Cook. More than a decade later, the French were the first to land, and the first to disappear. Cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia, and many visitors were eaten well into the 19th century. Over the later half of the 19th century, New Caledonia was settled and used as a penal colony by the French. It was during that period that nickel was discovered and mining begun. Between uprisings and new diseases, the Kanak population was cut in half by the 20th century. Following the fall of France in 1940, New Caledonia voted to support the Free French Forces. Major Allied bases in Noumea figured prominently in the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea. In 1953, French citizenship was granted to all New Caledonians, regardless of ethnicity. The last uprising occurred in 1988, called the “Ouvea cave hostage taking“, lead by the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front demanding independence – and was resolved in a massacre by French commandos. In 1998, an accord was signed establishing a 20-year transitional period to self-rule, by 2019.

The defacto national museum, Musée de Nouvelle-Calédonie, is operated by the “Direction des Affaires Culturelles et coutumières de la Nouvelle-Calédonie” (DACCNC). Fort Teremba is one of the few official historical monuments in New Caledonia. The pivotal cultural center in Noumea, Tjibaou Cultural Centre, is run by the “Agence de développement de la culture Kanak”, a member of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). Wasapa Art Kanak is a local NGO promoting indigenous artwork. Annual music festivals include the Gypsy Jazz Festival and Mazik Festival. Other popular events include regattas, such as New Caledonia Great Lagoon Regatta and Sail Noumea. Centre de rencontres internationales du Pacifique is the primary language institute for studying French.

The central tourist office in Noumea maintains a website at Office du Tourisme de Nouvelle-Calédonie. Aircalin operates as the defacto national airline, linking regional destinations. Air Calédonie is the domestic airline, for instance flying to the Loyalty Islands. Gîtes are French holiday homes, widely available throughout New Caledonia. Gîtes Nouvelle Calédonie is a convenient web portal indexing these holiday homes. Tera Hotels & Resorts operates the Kanua Tera Ecolodge, as well as the Oure Tera Beach Resort. Nataiwatch is a guesthouse on the popular Isle of Pines. l’Auberge de Jeunesse de Nouméa is the Noumea city hostel, with dormitory style accommodations. There is also camping in New Caledonia, such as the Ouano Safari Camp. Tourism New Caledonia has produced a useful publication, titled Campez en Nouvelle-Caledonie, listing commercial campgrounds throughout the territory.

References:

  • Exploring Ecotourism in New Caledonia by A Paddon, 2012
  • Government Policies and Indigenous Tourism in New Caledonia by AM d’Hauteserre, 2010
  • Exposure of humpback whales to unregulated tourism activities in their main reproductive area in New Caledonia by A Schaffar & C Garrigue, 2008
  • Tourism and Indigenous Curation of Culture in Lifou, New Caledonia by T LeFevre, 2007
  • Recreation and tourism land uses in New Caledonia by G Halseth, 2004
  • A Regional Geography of Recreation and Tourism in New Caledonia by G Halseth, 2002
  • Tourism in New Caledonia by JC Gay, 1995
  • The use of research for developing tourism in New Caledonia by S Brault, 1980
  • Tourism in New Caledonia by A Janin-Besson, 1978