If you're dreaming of a tropical island getaway in the South Pacific that's away from the crowds, set your sights for laid-back New Caledonia. It’s a little slice of France in the South Pacific and whether you are a seasoned sailor or a nautical novice, there’s something for everyone here. Indulge in a yacht charter with or without a skipper, choose to have a host or hostess, or go without. There are cruises that last several days, some that sail the Great Southern Ocean and track the whale route, and even water taxis close to the capital of Noumea.
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Boasting no fewer than 150 moorings, follow the trade winds from Noumea to Houaïlou on the east coast, passing by the Ouen Island, Isle of Pines, Lifou, Ouvéa and Hienghène to the north-east. Discover coral islands and deserted inlets along the way. It’s all so magnifique. Much of the adventure around New Caledonia centres around the ocean. Check out the snorkelling and diving hotspots of Tenia, known for its 40-50 metre drops covered in soft coral and home to schools of fish and dolphins. East coast Hienghene boasts diving visibility beyond 30 metres, and caves and tunnels are surrounded by rainbows of hard and soft corals. Meanwhile Lifou Island, a remote location off the beaten track, will deliver colourful coral and plenty of fish; Shoji Reef is great for spotting grey sharks, barracuda, tuna, manta rays and hammer sharks; Gorgone Reef offers the chance to spot turtles and dolphins; and The Needle of Prony, an enormous stalagmite measuring 38 metres high, attracts various sea life at different depths.
Above the surface, Noumea is regarded as the ‘windsurfing capital of the world’ thanks to its steady tradewinds that fill the waters of Anse Vata Bay. There are also jetski tours out of Noumea, replete with picnic lunches in isolated spots and kite surfing.
Those more enamoured with terra firma will enjoy horseriding along the rugged hinterland to the north (there’s even an annual rodeo in Bourail) or hiking the Grande-Terre on the mainland, which, with its long, marked trails into the mountains brimming with native plants and birds, is said to offer some of the best treks in the South Pacific.
Finally, take a skydiving adventure and view all of this beauty from above. After all, when it comes to the South Pacific, the sky’s the limit.