Underwater meet-and-greet with sea turtles in New Caledonia

Underwater meet-and-greet with sea turtles in New Caledonia

Dive in, the water’s fine in this French-speaking paradise. Holiday Goddess editor Vicki Arkoff surfaces long enough to report.

Little known to Americans and Europeans, but a favorite of Aussie divers, New Caledonia is a French-speaking South Pacific wonderland and a diver’s delight on Australia’s doorstep. Situated in the world’s largest lagoon, the second largest barrier reef and home to one of the largest nature preserves on Earth, it’s no wonder New Caledonia has so many diving hot spots.

Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail or “the Natural Park of the Coral Sea” is New Caledonia’s nature preserve covering more than 1.3 million square kilometers and consisting of around 450,000 hectares of coral reefs, 25 species of marine mammals, 48 shark species and five species of sea turtles. With thousands of incredible coral reefs, gardens and atolls, New Caledonia has a huge range of dive sites to choose from:

Le Meridien NoumeaThe Baie de Prony (Prony Bay) sits at the southern end of the main island, Grand Terre.  Prony Bay itself is rich in coral, unique shells, and marine life, and is a popular stopover and anchorage for yachts. Discovered in 1979, the bay is also home of L’aiguille de Prony, or the Needle of Prony, a spectacular pyramidal reef formation.

The North Province of New Caledonia features Daïman Reef, a cavernous rift where divers have to sink deep before swimming into a tunnel and emerging into an area bustling with marine life. Divers find themselves accompanied by parrotfish, tuna, barracuda, tazars, and the occasional grey shark. October and November is recommended for the best underwater show.  Experienced divers should head to the Isle of Pines to find a series of rifts 5 to 50 meters deep, creating an undulating expedition between canyons, grottos, tunnels and swim-through caves with an abundance of marine life.

It’s no wonder that Noumea, being the capital of New Caledonia, has some fascinating wreck dive sites. The last wooden patrol boat of the Royal Navy that sunk in 1988 has now become a superb and relatively-shallow dive site, making it a great dive for beginners.

Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort & SpaNew Caledonia is an adventurous destination for travelers looking for a Pacific Island paradise with a difference.  Where to stay?  Ten minutes from town, Le Meridien Noumea http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1842 has direct beach access and lots of water sports options. Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Resort and Spa http://www.sheratonnewcaledoniadeva.com/  has a unique location on a white sand beach facing the UNESCO World Heritage barrier reef.   On Anse Vata beach, Chateau Royal Beach Resort & Spa http://www.complexechateauroyal.nc/  faces one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons.  And for a real escape, take a private plane or boat to “Island of the Pines” to enjoy the private snorkeling beach and full-service spa of the 50-room Le Méridien Ile des Pins. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1841

 

Le Meridien Ile des Pins

For more information on New Caledonia visit http://en.visitnewcaledonia.com/ or www.haveitall.com.au.

Vicki Arkoff

About Vicki Arkoff

Vicki Arkoff’s magazine work includes MAD, Daily Variety and Entertainment Weekly. She is the author of authorised biographies on Paul McCartney and Frank Sinatra.