New Caledonia things to see and do

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The Pacific island of New Caledonia is a nature loverís paradise. Punching above its weight, the island lays claims to impressive natural features including the largest lagoon in the world, a unique blend of flora and fauna, and a 1800km-long (1118 mile) coral reef, second only in size to Australiaís Great Barrier Reef.

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Boat trip

Take a boat trip. Excursions in Melanesian outrigger canoes are organised at the Ile des Pins. Or goggle at the coral reefs through glass-bottomed boats. Sailing boats can be chartered with or without a skipper.

Botanical and Zoological Gardens

Visit the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, 4km (2.5 miles) from Nouméa, which is home to over 700 species of animals. Also nearby is the Amedée Lighthouse, constructed in Paris during the reign of Napoleon III and shipped to this coral reef in pieces.

Explore the east coast

Hienghéne has a lagoon surrounded by 120m-high (400ft) black cliffs. The region is dotted with churches and Melanesian villages, forests, coconut palms and beautiful beaches. At the southern point of this coast is Yaté, a village surrounded by lakes, waterfalls and rich wooded countryside.

Fishing expedition

Relax on a fishing expedition. The coral barrier reef off Nouméa is excellent for underwater spearfishing, as are waters around the Loyalty Islands. Ouvéa Island's lagoon is rich in fish. The main location for freshwater fishing is Yaté Lake, open January to October.

Grande Terre

Explore Grande Terre's busy little capital Nouméa, which overlooks one of the world's largest sheltered natural harbours. It's home to attractive squares, a cathedral, museums, a market, many old colonial houses and aquarium, one of the world's leading centres of marine scientific research.

Hiking trip

Strike out on a hiking trip into the interior. Arrangements can be made in the capital. Botanical excursions through the forest of Mount Koghi (with French- or English-speaking guides) are also available.

Hire a kayak

Hire a kayak or canoe to explore New Caledonia's network of rivers, streams and lakes.

Horse riding

Saddle up and go horse riding. Excursions are organised from Nouméa, Dumbea, La Foa, Bourail, Thio and the Koné villages. These vary from simple rides to major expeditions crossing the mountain range, mustering cattle and camping in the mountains.

Ile des Pins

Venture over to the Ile des Pins, discovered by Captain Cook in 1774, and lying 70km (45 miles) off Grande Terre. This exceedingly beautiful island has many white sand beaches, turquoise lagoons, lush rainforests, pines, orchids and ferns not to mention archaeological remains. Day trips are available from Nouméa.

Largest lagoon in the world

Don't miss a trip out onto, and to go swimming and scuba-diving in, the lagoon, which is the biggest in the world.

Mont-Dore

Soak up some scenery at Mont-Dore, a mountain surrounded by magnificent coastal views. On the way, stop at the Melanesian village of St Louis and the Plum Lookout for a spectacular lookout across the surrounding reef. Also in the south, Blue River Provincial Park is well worth a visit.

New Caledonia culture

For extra culture, visit Nouméa's South Pacific Commission Building and New Caledonia Museum to see a collection of native handicrafts; the Museum of Maritime History for artefacts from numerous local wrecks; and the Tjibaou Cultural Centre (www.adck.nc) for concerts, plays and exhibitions celebrating indigenous culture.

West coast beaches

Tour the pure white sand beaches, rainforest and offshore atolls of the west coast. There are elaborate and beautiful caves and rock formations shaped by Pacific breakers at Bourail. Further north is the ancient site of Koné. From Koumac, a road loops round the top of the island.

Whale watching

Go whale watching. From July to September, humpback whales can be spotted during the mating season in the bays of the southern lagoon and Lifou. Excursions are organised from Nouméa and south mainland to spot them.

Windsurfing

Try your hand at windsurfing. The Bay of Anse Vata and Côte Blanche, both in Nouméa, are the most popular locations. International competitions such as the Trophée des Alizés attract some of the world's top competitors.

Wreck diving

Enjoy some superb snorkelling and diving in marine reserves and around sunken shipwrecks. Favourite sites include around Nouméa, the Amédée Lighthouse Reserve (including shark feeding), La Dieppoise (Royal Navy shipwreck), Ilot Maître, the Prony Needle, the Tenia Horn, the Fault and the Hienghene Reef.