South Pacific, Travel

Travel Guide: The Islands, New Caledonia

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Welcome to Part 2 of my guide to New Caledonia! You can read Part 1, on Noumea, here.

new-caledonia-the-islands

If you’re planning a holiday to New Caledonia, make sure you set aside at least several days to explore some of New Caledonia’s famous tropical islands. Even if you’re short on time and staying at Noumea, you can still see a lot through day trips from the mainland.

Duck Island (Ile aux Canards)

Duck Island is so close to Anse Vata in Noumea you can see it from the coast! Because of its proximity, I highly recommend it for your first day trip. It’s also a great place to start for beginner snorkelers (ie me) as you can see a lot of colourful coral and fish close to the shore.

duck-island-distance

How to get there

Duck island is a mere 5 minutes taxi boat from Anse Vata beach. Find the beach hut with a sign pointing to Ile aux Canards (that’s Duck Island in French) and book in a return ticket.

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The water taxi can get busy, so if the weather is beautiful I suggest getting there early (around 9am) or be prepared to wait.

taxi-to-duck-island

What to bring

Pack food and drinks if you want to save money, as there is only 1 cafe on Duck Island and it’s not cheap. If you have your own, bring your snorkel and flippers as once again it’s an expensive endeavour to hire equipment. And you MUST wear reef shoes. The sand on Duck Island is very hard and sharp and you’d tear your feet open trying to get into the water!

duck-island

Where to eat

There is only one cafe on Duck Island, and they do a tasty burger! However at AU$15 for a burger and tiny salad, you’d be better off bring your own food if you’re on a budget.

duck-island-burger

Ilot Maitre

Ilot Maitre is a great destination if you’re into kite surfing. We were expecting better snorkelling there to be honest but there wasn’t much, so we spent the day lazing about on the beach.

ilot-maitre-pier

How to get there

Ilot Maitre is a little further by water taxi than Duck Island (around 20 minutes from Anse Vata). You buy your return ticket from the same beach shack. You can also stay on the island, there are several overwater villas dotted along the coast of Ilot Maitre as you arrive called L’Escapade Island Resort.

ilot-maitre-bungalows

What to bring/where to eat

There is an overpriced seafood buffet you can have for lunch (around AU$80) but that was closed the day we were there. Fortunately we were warned, so we brought our own lunch and water. Make sure you bring sunscreen as well as there isn’t much shade on this beach (as opposed to Duck Island which has lots of beach chairs and umbrellas).

ilot-maitre-sunset

Despite it not being a particularly successful day of snorkelling, check out that sunset! It was incredible.

ilot-maitre-sunset-pier

Amedee Island

We nearly didn’t make it to Amedee Island, as the only “official” way to get there is from the monopolising Mary D tour group and they were sold out. We made friends with some fellow Aussies who gave us a phone number for an illusive Dimitri. After several failed phone calls we eventually spoke with him and booked in a return boat ride. “Meet me at the end of the jetty” he said.

Why were we so desperate to get to Amedee? For amazing snorkelling and most importantly, to see sea turtles!

boat-amedee2

True to his word, Dimitri turned up the following morning in what I could only describe as a dingy. I get seasick pretty easy, and I am suspicious of the sea at the best of times, so with gritted teeth I got in along with 7 other people. It was a very long, very rough, 45 minutes to Amedee Island. But we made it there alive. And I didn’t vomit!

boat-amedee

I cannot describe how relieved I was when I saw the famous Amedee lighthouse looming in the distance, surrounded by the most ridiculously blue waters.

amedee-lighthouse-distance

How to get there

You can give Dimitri a call on 77 27 16 to book in with him. He is significantly cheaper (around 6,500F) and doesn’t include pointless activities that the Mary D does such as a sarong tying workshop (wtf) and coconut tree climbing demonstration. By all means book in with Mary D, she costs 16,150F but you do have the added perks of a bigger boat, lunch included etc.

amedee-lighthouse

Watch out for… sea snakes. Yikes! I had read that Amedee Island was home to a lot of sea snakes and I saw 3 of them. They can chase you across land and in the sea. We’re doomed. (By the way, if you leave them along, they’re fine). Oh and speaking of scary things, one of my travelling companions saw a shark when he was snorkelling out further! And what did he do? Followed it with his GoPro ofcourse. Honestly.

sea-snake

What to bring/where to eat

If you book on a Mary D tour, all food and beverages will be looked after. If you go DIY Dimitri style, make sure you bring food (I highly recommend making your own ham and cheese baguette) and water. There is also a small tuckshop available on the island selling snacks and drinks. Once again I suggest bring your own snorkelling gear if you have it, but it is available for hire on the island.

amedee-lighthouse-walk

And so, was our turtle quest successful? WHY YES IT WAS! Please excuse the graininess of the photo as this was a taken on a disposable underwater camera but look! Turtle! We saw about 8 of these guys swimming peacefully around near the shore. I must have spent at least 30 minutes mesmerised, watching them eat grass, come up for air, watch fish cling to them. It was amazing.

sea-turtle

Isle of Pines

And last, but certainly not least, is the Isle of Pines. New Caledonia’s most popular island is most certainly worthy of its reputation. We considered staying for several nights actually on the island (the Le Meridien looked divine) but the thought of having to shuttle back and forth between that hotel and our Noumea accommodation wasn’t ideal. So we settled on a day trip.

isle-of-pines-boat

How to get there

You can either fly to Isle of Pines or catch the Betico ship. Neither of us were a huge fan of small planes, so we went the sea option, which takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes. It’s also cheaper too. The boat to the island operates return services most Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, departing from Noumea at 7am leaving Isle of Pines at 5pm. It’s a long day, but well worth it.

isle-of-pines-lagoon4

We arrived to a picture-perfect setting – white sandy beaches, aqua water and clear blue skies. It was all a bit haphazard when we arrived on the island, there were no tourist buildings or even signs to indicate where we should go or what we should do. We found a few other lost-looking people and eventually found a taxi driver to drive us around for the day. We had no idea where he was taking us (let alone how much it was!) and his English wasn’t great. But we were starting to get used to this relaxed New Caledonian way of things.

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The clearest water I’ve ever seen in my life!

amedee-island-water

What to bring/where to eat

It’s best to bring your own snorkel gear, but fortunately there is a place near the natural lagoon that rents equipment.

There are several shacks dotted around Isle of Pines selling simple food, such as homemade baguettes and biscuits. You can buy water and soft drink from there as well. You can also eat at the Le Meridien hotel.

isle-of-pines-hut

What to see

Piscine Naturelle – a stunning natural lagoon with bright aqua waters that is flanked by pine trees. It is one of the best places for snorkelling on the Isle of Pines.

isle-of-pines-lagoon2 isle-of-pines-lagoon

Kanumera Bay – crystal clear waters abound at Kanumera Bay and it was my second favourite place to snorkel.

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Oro Bay – a great swimming beach

isle-of-pines-water

Notre Dame de l’Assomption, a convict-built Catholic church.

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An old colonial building on the Isle of Pines.

isle-of-pines-building isle-of-pines-window

This was the face a local island child pulled at me when she saw I had Pringles. After conferring with her mother, I gave her some.

isle-of-pines-girl

We spent our final hour watching kids splash in the sea as the sun started to set, before commencing our long boat ride back to Noumea.

sunset-swims

The islands of New Caledonia were truly the highlight of my trip. And while you’re here, don’t forget to read my travel guide to Noumea!

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7 Comments

  • Reply Lisa June 10, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Wow Swah, your photos are incredible! What a great adventure x

    • Reply Swah June 18, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Thanks Lisa! It was such an adventure xx

  • Reply Helen | Grab Your Fork June 12, 2015 at 1:57 am

    So many gorgeous shades of blue!

    • Reply Swah June 18, 2015 at 10:30 am

      It’s literally 50 shade of blue isn’t it! Haha :)

  • Reply Your guide to New Caledonia – Noumea – itstinghc blog August 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

    […] information you can read before your trip – 5 days in New Caledonia Neighbouring islets A guide to New Caledonia – the islands Half day/day trip to Amédée Island or Signal Island Noumea […]

  • Reply Sheena January 12, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Hi there! Loved reading your tips and tricks on New Caledonia. I’m actually going there for a short trip next month, and could do with some advice if you’ve got a few minutes. I sent you an email recently, and would like to hear back from you :)

    Kind regards,

    Sheena

    • Reply Swah January 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Hi Sheena! You lucky thing, you’ll have a blast in NC. Let me reply to your email now :)

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