New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France, made up of a main island, Grande Terre and several smaller islands. It is located in the region of Melanesia in the southwest Pacific about halfway between Fiji and Australia. Noumea is the centre for yacht charters
The choice of yacht charter in New Caledonia is very extensive and includes; bareboat yacht charter, luxury crewed yacht charter, skippered yacht charter, dive charter, fishing charter, monohull and catamaran charter and both sail and motor yacht charter.
The western Pacific was first populated about 50,000 years ago. The Austronesians moved into the area later. The diverse group of people that settled over the Melanesian archipelagos are known as the Lapita. They arrived New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands around 1500 BC. From about the 11th century Polynesians also arrived and mixed with the populations of the archipelago.
Europeans first sighted New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands late in the18th century when the British voyager James Cook sighted Grande Terre in 1774. British and North American whalers and sandalwood traders became interested in New Caledonia. But tensions developed with the local population as traders approach became increasingly. Europeans used alcohol and tobacco amongst other things to barter for commodities. Contact with the Europeans also brought diseases such as dysentery, influenza, leprosy measles, smallpox and syphilis. Many of the local people died as a result of these diseases. Tensions finally developed into hostilities and in 1849 the crew of the Cutter were killed and eaten by the Pouma clan.
As trade in sandalwood declined it was replaced by a new form of trade. Blackbirding involved enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. This awful trade finished at the start of the 20th century. The island was made a French possession in late 1853. Between 1864 and 1922 France sent a total of 22,000 convicted felons to penal colonies along the south west coast of the island.
New Caledonia is considered one of the worlds most botanically important, and critically endangered hotspots. Unlike many of the Pacific Islands, which are of relatively recent volcanic origin, New Caledonia is an ancient fragment of the Gondwana super-continent. New Caledonia and New Zealand separated from Australia 85 million years ago, and from one another 55 million years ago. This isolated New Caledonia from the rest of the world's landmasses, and made it a Noah's Ark of sorts, preserving a snapshot of prehistoric Gondwanan forests. The country still shelters an extraordinary diversity of unique, endemic, and extremely primitive plants and animals of Gondwanan origin.
The main island of Grande Terre, the third largest in the South Pacific, is encompassed by a barrier reef of 1000 miles to create the world's largest lagoon. The Isle of Pines lies to the south. To the east are the Loyalty Islands; Lifou, Maré, Ouvéa and Tiga. To the north west are the Belep, Astrolabe, Ballona, Beautemps-Beaupré, Chesterfield, Huon, Surprise and Walpole. All share the attributes of an exceptional clarity of water and invite you to enjoy a spectacle of multicoloured fish and coral right from the deck of your charter yacht. Reefs surround all the outer islands of New Caledonia. These reefs create individual lagoons lapping against lovely beaches.
New Caledonia offers its own particular version of Polynesian paradise. A very special mix of French and Melanesian culture gives New Caledonia its own unique character. Approached from the sea, New Caledonia reveals a spectacular unspoiled beauty that will linger in your memories. New Caledonia is a yacht charter paradise. In addition to the white sandy beaches there are many yacht anchorages, great diving, excellent fishing and on land flora and fauna in vibrant colours.
On both water and land New Caledonia is host to intriguing and unique flora, fauna and marine life. There are 3,500 species of flowers of which three quarters are not found elsewhere. There are a thousand kinds of fish and 6,500 species of other marine life. Both divers and fishermen will find the lagoons of New Caledonia exciting. It is a bone-fishing paradise. A sailing holiday in New Caledonia will treat you to aquamarine lagoons, deserted white sandy beaches, sheer cliffs and dramatic volcanic rocks rising impressively from the sea.
Cooled by the Pacific Ocean and trade winds, New Caledonia has a spring-like, sunny climate all year round. The best months for yacht charter are May to December. January to March is the rainy season and there is a risk of severe weather during these months. Air temperatures vary from an average of 20°C in the winter months of July and August to 25°C in the summer months of December and January. Trade winds from the northeast to the southeast blow most of the year at an average of 16 -18 knots.
April to November offer the best sailing conditions with southeasterly trade winds of 15-20 knots providing good sailing conditions. The tidal range is only half a metre currents are negligible. If you can pick your holiday weeks consider taking in one of New Caledonia’s many festivals. The Avocado Festival runs from in mid to late May. There is a three-day Foire de Bourail from late August to early September and the Equinox is in October.
Direct flights to Noumea are available from Los Angeles in the USA and Sydney and Brisbane in. No visa is required for countries belonging to the EEC, USA, Japan and New Zealand. French is the official language, but English is also widely spoken. The currency in New Caledonia is the French Pacific Franc.
You should provision your yacht in Noumea where you will find local produce markets and a major supermarket for meats, bakery and beverages. Supplies are very limited elsewhere in New Caledonia.
New Caledonia like the rest of the Pacific is not cheap. Most food is expensive, as it has to be imported. However, you will be spared the extra cost of tipping, as it is not part of local custom. In the Melanesian culture a tip is seen as a gift and imposes an obligation on the receiver to return the favour. Also be aware that bargaining is not accepted practice and considered offensive.
La Grande Terre is New Caledonia 's main island and the third largest in the South Pacific after New Guinea and New Zealand. The capital and only city is Noumea, located on the west coast. Noumea has been nicknamed the “Paris of the Pacific” due to the French influence and sophistication. There are excellent French restaurants, chic boutiques and interesting museums. As the capital city Noumea is conveniently close to the international airport. Yacht charters start at the Port de la Moselle in the Baie de la Moselle in Nouméa. This is a modern marina right in the centre of town and only 45 minutes away from the international airport of Nouméa. Be sure to provision at the local produce market where an abundance of great seafood and some local produce are available.
The Isle of Pines is a fabulous yachting destination. It was given its name from Captain Cook inspired by its strange mix of towering pine and palm trees combined with white sandy beaches. Kamuela and Kuto are considered two of the best beaches in the South Pacific. You can choose to begin your yacht charter from the Isle of Pines rather than Noumea by having your yacht delivered. The island is also home to remains of a former penal colony and remarkable caves with stalactite formations. Diving and snorkelling are popular and divers should aim for the summer when the colours of the coral are at their height during spawning. Catch a glimpse of local culture with tribal dances and Bugna feasts.
The Loyalty Islands of Lifou, Mare and Ouvea are untouched by commercial tourism and truly off the beaten track. You will encounter many fish and few people. The beaches are lovely. To include these islands on your yacht charter you will need a minimum of ten days.