New Caledonia is quickly becoming a popular location for travelers over the age of 60. Not only for its calm beaches with white sands and enough swaying coconut trees to make you feel like you’re on the set of Gilligan’s Island but also for its rich cultural history.
When the island life becomes too much for you, visit museums, and when the sun becomes too much, stroll into one of the renowned art galleries to cool off. There’s a lot to see and do on this island, and the myths and legends of this old penal colony are likely to surprise you.
Here are 10 interesting facts about New Caledonia that will make you want to hop on a plane and visit right away.
New Caledonia History Facts
In 1774, British navigator James Cook discovered New Caledonia. The main island’s hilly vistas reminded him of his native Scotland. As a result, he gave the island the name New Caledonia.
Melanesians inhabited the island during the time. These people were most likely from Papua New Guinea and Polynesia when they arrived on the islands.
Until 1840, when sandalwood traders came, Europeans had little interest in the region. The French colonized New Caledonia on September 24, 1853.
Despite strong opposition from the native Kanaks, it is still a French Overseas Territory. Port-de-France, presently Nouméa, was founded in 1854 as the country’s capital.
Napoleon III established a penal colony in New Caledonia in 1864. Until the prison colony was dismantled in 1897, the French continued to send deportees to the island. Over 40,000 criminals and political prisoners arrived in New Caledonia during this time.
There were numerous Melanesian uprisings around this time. The most significant occurred in 1878.
During World War II, New Caledonia sided with the Allies. In 1942, the United States established its South Pacific headquarters in Nouméa, the capital.
New Caledonia Fun Facts
Noumea, New Caledonia – A group of Melanesians performs a traditional dance. The population of New Caledonia is estimated to be around 272,000 people. Kanaks make up 39% of the population (Melanesian). Although the majority were born on the islands, 27% are of European heritage. The others are of mixed ancestry or hail from countries outside of Europe.
Between Kanaks and Europeans, there is a clear cultural divide. The Kanaks have always wanted to be free of France. The Europeans, on the other hand, want to stay in the French fold.
One of the more remarkable New Caledonia facts is that the issue has been decided in three referendums. So far, none of them has culminated in independence.
Nothing is more important to the Kanak than their clan and ancestral ties. Individual needs are put on the back burner in favor of the clan. This dates back to ancient times when tribes ensured that all members of the clan were fed and housed.
Kanak culture is heavily influenced by music and dance. Conch shells, percussion instruments, and bamboo flutes are examples of musical instruments. At festivals and occasions, Kanaks execute the traditional Pilou dance. The dance is rich in meaning and has a long history.
New Caledonians (French)
New Caledonia’s Bourail museum is made of stone
European descendants of New Caledonians can trace their ancestors back to French convicts and nickel miners. Caldoches are their name, and they have their unique culture.
The capital city is littered with examples of French architecture. Though, contrary to popular belief, French Caledonians are not as Eurocentric as they appear. They have a more rural mindset and enjoy county fairs, rodeos, and similar events.
Food in New Caledonia
Cooking began in a ground oven
Nothing speaks more about a country’s cultural heritage than its cuisine. New Caledonia isn’t any different. Food has become a rich and varied tradition as a result of ethnic diversity. Delicious cuisine with Asian, French, Tahitian, and Melanesian flavors is available.
Where else could you have a delicious Melanesian stew while sipping world-famous French wine?
French pastries, croissants, and baguettes are also available. Bougna, an indigenous dish, is a popular choice for something a little more traditional.
Chicken, lobster, or fish are cooked in coconut milk and served with yams and sweet potatoes in this dish. It’s sure to please even the pickiest eater.
What is the New Caledonia Known For
New Caledonia’s culture
On the island of Lifou, a traditional cottage surrounded by vegetation and palm trees
Several museums have displays on colonial and indigenous civilizations that are fascinating. The cultural diversity of the islands is also celebrated through theater, art galleries, and festivals. A number of areas are dedicated to the Second World War.
In Noumea, the Tjibaou Cultural Centre houses a beautiful collection of Kanak art, culture, and historical treasures. The center also hosts music and dance performances.
Spending time with a local family is one of the finest ways to learn about the island’s customs and culture. In recent years, indigenous peoples have begun to welcome visitors to their communities.
The majority of them dwell on Grand Terre’s east shore. You can stay in a traditional Melanesian hut, taste traditional Melanesian cuisine, and enjoy traditional Melanesian music and dance. At the same time, you’ll make a cash contribution to the community.
Currency of New Caledonia
The Pacific franc is New Caledonia’s currency. It is abbreviated as CFP or XPF and is tied to the Euro at a fixed rate. You will have to convert your currency for the local currency when you arrive unless you use a credit card.
Most stores in the capital take credit cards, but you’ll need cash if you’re going to the more outlying places.
The climate in New Caledonia
A beach on the Isle of Pines with a straw umbrella and wooden chairs.
Because New Caledonia is located in the tropical climatic region, temperatures are warm all year. The average temperature is 24 degrees. The temperature will decrease to between 20 and 22 degrees in the winter.
Summer temperatures will reach around 28 degrees, but with high humidity, they may reach 35 degrees.
The month of February is the wettest and warmest of the year. From September to December, the greatest time to visit New Caledonia is in the spring. The humidity in the summer can be oppressive.
The milder winter months may be preferable for hikers. Between April and November, the ocean waters are at their clearest. So, if you want to go scuba diving, now is the finest time of year.
Tourism in New Caledonia
Melanesia’s most popular destination is New Caledonia. In 2019, 474,000 tourists visited the country. To put that in context, there are 1.7 tourists for every local.
It’s easy to see why so many people visit these islands. Nature lovers, bird watchers, and watersport enthusiasts flock to this natural paradise.
The country’s topography and seascapes are breathtaking. Because of its clean waters and diverse marine life, it is a popular diving and snorkeling destination.
Boaters, canoeists, and sailors will enjoy the expansive lagoon. You can venture off on your own to find uninhabited islets and a plethora of sea life. If you prefer company, rented boats and organized cruises can take you whale watching or fishing.
Quad riding, hiking, and ziplining are some of the most popular activities on the island. For something a little different, explore the island’s natural splendor on foot, on the bike, or on horseback.
The environment of the main island is diverse, ranging from a steep mountainous spine to misty jungles and lovely beaches. Savannah grasslands, suitable for cycling and horseback riding, may be found to the west of the island, while densely wooded areas can be found to the east.
There is always something interesting to do in New Caledonia, and there are lots of places to stay. You have the option of staying at a luxury resort, an island cottage, or a primitive hut.
Golfers have the option of playing on one of four 18-hole courses. In Nouméa, shoppers will discover all of the French glitz they’re looking for. Delectable patisseries and French clothes businesses compete for customers’ attention. Restaurants serve delectable French cuisine with a hint of the Caribbean.
10 interesting facts about new Caledonia
1. Mineral resources abound in the country.
New Caledonia is prosperous, with one of the region’s highest per capita earnings. Only Australia and New Zealand have higher GDPs than the United States. Nickel and other mineral reserves are at the heart of the country’s prosperity. Nickel is produced in the country at a rate of 10% of global output.
In 1894, an engineer named Jules Garnier began mining nickel, but it wasn’t until 1960 that nickel began to have a significant impact on the country’s economic progress.
2. Indigenous peoples have lived in this area for over 3,000 years.
Melanesians arrived in New Caledonia circa 1,350 BC and remained there until the arrival of James Cooke in 1774, isolated off from the rest of the world.
3. New Caledonia stretches for 550 kilometers.
The territory of New Caledonia is larger than Hawaii. It spans 550 miles of ocean and is made up of four archipelagos.
4. It is a member of the European Union.
Despite its distance from Europe of almost 9,000 miles, New Caledonia is a member of the European Union as a French Overseas Territory.
5. French is the official language.
Despite the fact that French is the official language, New Caledonia is home to more than 30 dialects and languages. English, Japanese, Vietnamese, and 33 Melanesian dialects are among them.
6. There are 22 species of birds found nowhere else in the planet.
The New Caledonian crow is one of these unique birds that scientists are studying because it creates and utilizes tools. Only Grand Terre and one of the Loyalty Islands are home to this bird.
The cagou, the country’s official bird, is a ground dweller who barks like a dog. It’s a crested long-legged bird that dwells in dense forests that cling to mountain ridges.
7. In New Caledonia, there are dozens of islands.
There are dozens of islands in the archipelago, in addition to Grand Terre. The Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines are two more significant islands.
8. The Amadee Lighthouse is one of the world’s tallest lighthouses.
Amadee Island, off the coast of New Caledonia, is home to a tall lighthouse.
On Amadee Island, just over ten miles outside of Nouméa, lies one of the world’s tallest lighthouses. It was France’s first and only metal lighthouse. In 1865, it was the first to light up the lagoon. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for a spectacular view of the beach.
9. It is the world’s longest continuous barrier reef.
The barrier reef of New Caledonia is the world’s longest continuous barrier reef. After the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Mesoamerican reefs, it is also the third-largest. The reef wraps around the main island, enclosing the world’s largest reef lagoon. The lagoon has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lagoon of New Caledonia was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
10. It is home to the world’s second-largest marine park.
The Coral Sea Natural Park, established in 2014, is a protected region that spans an amazing 502,000 miles of ocean. The park is home to whales, turtles, sharks, and the world’s third-largest population of dugongs.
The region protects 1700 fish species and 473 coral species. The marine park is home to around 9,300 species, and scientists are constantly discovering new ones.
These are some of the world’s best-preserved reefs.
The reef in New Caledonia is one of the best-preserved on the planet, with the most diverse concentration of corals found worldwide.
It doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to tropical vacations. So, if you’re seeking some fantastic outdoor adventures on an Island Paradise, it might be time to pack your belongings and head to New Caledonia.
I hope you liked learning about New Caledonia and that it has helped you select what to see and do when you are there.
New Caledonia is the place to go if you want to see one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ll be visiting this intriguing country soon, so I’ve compiled a list of New Caledonia facts to help you plan your trip.
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