Where is New Caledonia?
New Caledonia is the third largest island in the Pacific Region after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. It is located in southern Melanesia, at a latitude of 19° - 23° south and at a longitude of 158° - 172° east.
The island is situated about 1,500 km from Australia, 1,700 km from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, 7,000 km from Japan, 10,000 km from the West Coast of the USA and 20,000 km from France.
Guétié, Ouvéa (Photo P Labout)
The mainland is where most people live, and which is the richest area of New Caledonia, is divided lengthwise by a range of mountains (Chaîne Centrale), the highest points of which are "Mount Panié" in the north (1,629 m) and "Mount Humboldt" in the south (1,618 m). Various species of trees can be found in these mountains.
This unusual relief, very much like a backbone, divides the Mainland into 2 very different areas:
The East Coast, humid and open to the trade winds is a fertile, exotic land with lush tropical vegetation, green valleys, beautiful waterfalls, rivers, … and authentic Melanesian huts along the roads.
The West Coast, a drier, temperate zone. There are fewer coconut trees but "niaouli" trees grow by the thousands and the endemic wildlife is rich. It is "cattle country," shaped by people who live at the pace of their cattle. There is an abundance of beautiful beaches too.
Le récif barrière (Photo : PA Pantz)
Unlike its volcanic neighbors, New Caledonia is a fragment of an ancient continent which drifted away some 250 million years ago. Its flora and fauna evolved in isolation, and are now quite unique: 3500 recorded species of plants, three quarters of which occur only here; 4300 species of land animals, 1000 species of fish, 6500 species of marine invertebrates.
Five hundred kilometers long, fifty kilometers wide, New Caledonia offers an endless variety of landscapes, from some of the best white sand beaches in the Pacific to spectacular mountain retreats.
Surrounded by a 1,600 km long coral reef, New Caledonia also boasts the largest lagoon in the world. The reef can be as close as a few kilometers from the coast in some places and as far as 65 km in others - with an average depth of 40 m.
The Territory of New Caledonia consists of the Mainland, the Isle of Pines to the south of the Mainland, the Loyalty Islands to the east of the Mainland (Maré, Lifou, Tiga and Ouvéa), the Belep Archipelago in the north west and numerous islands and islets: Huon & Surprise, Chesterfield, Walpole, Beautemps-Beaupré, Astrolabe, and the Bellona reef, … a total surface of 19,000 sq km (16,372 sq km for the Mainland alone, which is 400 km long).