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Charmed by New Caledonia


Imagine a small, hilly town by the gracious Pacific ocean, where as far as your eyes can see, there is nothing but beauty: where the bluest sky meets the bluest water at the horizon. Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, transmits a nuance that is truly enjoyable, and inevitably captivating.

It’s a tropical delight meets French charm: a relaxed atmosphere with style. Traveling on the city bus on a Saturday morning along the wonderful coast, watching sea birds fly over dozens of boats at the charming little harbour of the Baie de la Moselle, I could not but beam and smile.

The morning market downtown, where local produce like taro and ignam meets French cheese, ocean-fresh fish and prawns, made an enticing visit. Merry and practical, it’s where vendors and buyers of all descendants – indigenous, asian, french – amicably exchange words and commodities. I bought myself some croissants, nems and bananas.

In the afternoon, just before dusk, I went up the hill of Ouen Toro – possibly the highest point in Noumea – and found myself astounded by the serene sky that was magically turning violet above the island’s sturdy mountains, over the peaceful ocean that slowly swallowed daylight…

In Noumea, people are cheerful and loosen up – not difficult when you are surrounded by wonderful nature and exposed to lovely weather all year round. When I was there – at the end of October and early November – the temperature was about 25 degrees during the day and breezy 19 in the evening. The air was pleasantly dry.

And then, the mother of all trips: to the remarkable Ile des Pins. This hidden jewel is a tiny little island about 20 minutes flight from Noumea (or a few hours by boat), so beautiful it was that I found it almost surreal. As the name suggests, the island bears peculiar pine trees, evident the moment you land there. The sensation it brought about was unsurpassed: I was in paradise.

At the island’s Baie de Kuto, I strolled along the whitest sandy beach I had ever set foot on. Some sassy sailing boats were anchored; over the translucent water they made a magnificent postcard view. Virtually nobody else was on the beach: I understood then and there what true luxury meant. And I better took the most of it while it lasted. I stepped into the soothing water and nearly burst in bliss. The whole thing was ecstatic.

Until I saw what turned out to be the most idyllic place on earth I had ever witnessed. La piscine naturelle – the natural pool – is beyond one’s wildest imagination. About 30 minutes drive from Baie de Kuto, on the other side of the island, lays a picture-perfect lagoon, where you can – and must! – swim and cuddle with the fish, and be grateful of life and nature. With the sky-pointing pine trees and a giant reef in the background, la piscine naturelle is unequivocally fabulous. Divine, with a capital D.

I went back to Noumea that evening totally charmed and elated. It was hard to tell myself that I had soon to go back to Geneva.

The next morning, as the aircraft took off, leaving Noumea behind, I looked over the window and trembled. Dazed by the emerald islands scattered across the vivid blue ocean below me, I wondered if I would ever have the chance to come back to this fascinating corner of the world.

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