New Caledonia’s Treasures Beyond The Palm Swaying Beaches

Blue RiverNational Park
Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Editor

Jan 31, 2023

When you conjure up images of New Caledonia, swaying palm trees over stretches of pristine turquoise beaches come to mind, and while that’s certainly in abundance in this Pacific Island archipelago, there’s so much more the rich and diverse landscape has to offer.

Given its geology and isolation, New Caledonia is home to a huge array of wildlife and flora that can be found nowhere else. In fact, Wikipedia says the uniqueness of its ecosystem has made it a ‘biological ark’.

From carnivorous plants to flightless birds and hundreds of pine species, it’s a veritable playground for nature lovers.

Discovering the lesser-known side of Grand Terre – the main island of New Caledonia – is on offer through a local tour company called Toutazimut. It’s a seven-hour return trip where the delightful owner and tour guide Axelle Boullet picks you up and drops you back at your hotel and takes you and a small intimate group on a fascinating trip to the incredible Blue River National Park. This nature reserve is in the island’s south province and about a one hour drive over a mountain passway.

It is home to the Kagu bird, a rare flightless bird. There’s also the Caledonian crow, known for being highly industrious and as Axelle explained to us can even make its own spears and hooks with twigs and then there’s the Imperial pigeon – the largest arboreal pigeon in the world. In all, New Caledonia hosts more than 200 bird species and amazingly 27 are endemic to the islands.

Kauri tree
Ancient Kauri tree in Blue River National Park, New Caledonia

Being dwarfed by a thousand-year-old Kauri tree in the Blue River National Park was just one of the many highlights. This majestic tree is only standing, Axelle says, because it was too big for woodchoppers to fell. Perversely, had they been able to overcome the might of the island’s oldest tree, its likely fate would have meant it was cut down only to be used as matchsticks as was the fate of an entire forest of these beautiful trees in the area.

Fauna in Blue National Park, New Caledonia
Fauna in Blue River National Park, New Caledonia

Our guide Axelle shared the rich history behind the nature reserve on our journey through the ever-changing countryside that she loved so much she waved her French home goodbye about 20 years ago to forge a new life here in the tropics. Axelle gave us a totally new perspective on New Caledonia and the stories it had to tell.

It was being able to see the wilderness through her eyes that made our seven-hour journey into the hinterland from our base in Noumea so enjoyable, giving us a much deeper insight into the local people, culture, and the land itself.

New Caledonia is part of what geologists have named Zealandia, which is the area that was formed after Australia and New Zealand broke away from Antarctica 85 to 130 million years ago and consists almost entirely of continental shelf. Given its geology, the land differs from many other Pacific Islands such as Hawaii because, unlike them, it is not volcanic. Axelle picked up a rock and said ‘Feel how heavy this rock is – that’s because it’s made of iron.’ After taking us into the nature reserve, she drove us deep into the forest to experience her favourite water hole.

Submerging ourselves in the pool of water surrounded by cascading waterfalls and tropical fauna was forest bathing at its best.

‘It’s one of my favourite spots and the water is so clean you can drink it,’ says Axelle. ‘I fill my water bottle up with it.’

After our swim, Axelle prepared a delicious French picnic complete with a ham baguette which we enjoyed surrounded by the forest in a remote area of the park where visitor vehicles are forbidden to drive.

Blue National Park, New Caledonia
Blue River National Park, New Caledonia

Axile was a font of knowledge about the area and shared so much of it during our time with her. So, we came away with a much deeper understanding about the real beauty of the countryside and the Kanaks, the indigenous people who make up 41 per cent of the New Caledonia’s total population along with mainly French people and descendants from its convict past, some of whom have never even been to France.

For the many tourists who visit the islands from their base in Noumea, it’s worth making the trip inland to witness the majestic mountain peaks, lush forests, and glistening lakes and riverways. And Axelle is the perfect guide to show you.

Blue National Park
Blue River National Park riverways make an incredible place to swim

When To Visit

This Pacific archipelago enjoys a tropical climate with wet and dry seasons throughout the year. The rainy season typically lasts from December to March, but precipitation can also happen in July and August. Meanwhile, the hot and humid season runs from September to November.

Toutazimut

You can book a trip to the River River Blue Park here: https://www.toutazimut.nc/en/home

Standard rate: from 15000 XPF/adult and 7500 XPF/child (3 to 12 YO), lunch included.

What to bring : clothes adapted to the red soil, comfortable shoes for easy walking, sunscreen, hat, swimsuit, towel.

For more information, check out the https://www.newcaledonia.travel/nz/great-south/yate/blue-river-park

 

New Caledonia
New Caledonia has more to offer than white sandy beaches and snorkelling

More on New Caledonia here:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Editor

Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites TheCarousel.com, GameChangers.com.au and WomenLoveTech.com. She is the only person to edit and publish Australia's three biggest flagship magazines - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea. Robyn was Group Publisher of Bauer Media's most successful and prestigious magazines including Woman's Day, Good Health, Grazia and ran Hearst in Australia including Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and madison. Voted one of B&T's 30 Most Powerful Women In Media at the Women in Media Awards Robyn was a keynote speaker at Pause 2021, Cebit & J&J Women In Leadership. Robyn was also the winner of the prestigious Magazine Publisher Association’s Editor of the Year award.

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