Just where and what is New Caledonia?

New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, just west of Australia and north of New Zealand. It is approximately 16,000 kilometres and 24 hours (flight time) away from France (think opposite side of the globe). Time-wise, New Caledonia is ahead of the rest of the world, with only Auckland (New Zealand) being one hour further ahead: it is currently 9 hours ahead of Paris, 15 hours ahead of New York and 18 hours ahead of Los Angeles. (Side note: it is not always that fun being ahead in time; we get European news 24 hours later, for example.)

New-Caledonia-MapIt has a land area of 18,576 square kilometres, approximately 50 kilometres wide and 400 kilometres long. We are blessed with a beautiful lagoon, calm seas, mountains, rain forests and rivers. Our climate is tropical, with hot and humid period from November to March with temperatures between 27°C and 30°C, and a cooler, dry period from June to August with temperatures between 20°C and 23°C.

New Caledonia has a total population of 252,000, approximately half of which live in the capital city, Nouméa. Only 25,455 are fixed broadband subscribers.

During the “Pacific War” between 1942 and 1946, the Americans occupied the territory, built hospitals and schools and kept the country safe (more on this to follow). The 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific” was based on a James Michener novel, “Tales of the South Pacific” which interestingly enough is based on stories from his time on a neighbouring island, Vanuatu. Vanuatu is but a short boat-ride away from New Caledonia.

New Caledonia was a French overseas territory, beginning in 1946. It currently has a special status, due to the Nouméa Accord, signed in 1998. A gradual transfer of power from the French state to New Caledonia itself was begun in 1998, to last from 15 to 20 years. Its independence will come up for public vote in 2014, or later in 2020. Asking around, it is not entirely certain that the people of New Caledonia will vote for their independence, but more on this to follow (as I need to speak with more locals and key in to the local media).

Apparently, “New Caledonia has one of the largest economies in the South Pacific, with a GDP of US$8.85 billion in 2010. The nominal GDP per capita was US$35,436 (at market exchange rates) in 2010. It is thus higher than New Zealand‘s, though there is significant inequality in income distribution, and long-standing structural imbalances between the economically dominant South Province and the less developed North Province and Loyalty Islands (Source: Wikipedia).

What makes it special? Its climate, its quality of life, its rich heritage, its diversity. It is a fantastic place to raise children – it is relatively safe, we live outside, there are lots of sports to do and fun to be had. It is also exceptionally beautiful, as you will see in the posts to come,  a place that inspires, embraces and soothes the soul.

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5 thoughts on “Just where and what is New Caledonia?

  1. Pingback: The free ticket and efficiency story « New Caledonia Today

  2. So, for real, the nickel exports leaves a lot of money but that does not ends in the country to favor the conditions of the locals. Sad.

  3. Hello,
    I found your blog by chance, when searching about New Caledonia yesterday, and still I am in the process of reading through it. Congratulations for your excellent blog. I think it is the best English source for life in New Caledonia, because, to say the truth you the French don’t or don’t want to write often in English so you keep any secrets to yourselves! I am Stefanos from Greece and I would like very much to visit New Caledonia. Generally I want to tour the Australasian region, but NC holds a special interest for me. An isolated ancient land with extreme biodiversity of many ancient or special species, stunning scenes, and a culture unlike here in Europe. Still uncorrupted by mass tourism, it is the ideal place. Although I have travelled Europe and a little Asia a lot, in fact I would like to visit more unique places, but the opportunity hasn’t appeared yet. I don’t mean that the more nearby or western countries aren’t interesting, just that I would like to go elsewhere as well.
    The one who introduced me to New Caledonia (I will call it NC for brevity) is a small lizard. Yes, a small lizard. I have a crested gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) male and three and a half years old named Baron, which is a species from NC. Thought extinct between 1866 and 1994, it was found by chance and now it is very popular throughout the world, making it the most common pet gecko of the Australian family. Surely the captive population exceeds the native by thousands! Other NC geckos are also kept, though more rarely. All the NC geckos are bred successfully in captivity for many years now, so no wild specimens are collected from their habitats nowadays. At that exact moment he is in his hide and sheds his skin, which they do periodically. You realy have amazing geckos there, quite large with strange head ornamentations, patterns and camouflages. And don’t forget that you live in the homeland of the largest living gecko of the world, Rhacodactylus leachianus that can be half a kg in weight!
    Before that, I thought that NC is a chain of small islands with a few very poor natives trying to survive by growing a few crops, and a French garrison monitoring for independence movements and unrest. I thought it was a very hostile place, with most of the population moved by the Second World War and natural resources depleted, and also practically inaxessible to everyone. Later I learned what a place truly is and I want to visit one day. And certainly you have given much needed quality advice for travelers, like where to go, what to see and do.
    But I learnt about the dark side here as well, and that saddened me much. Until now I believed Europeans and Natives lived peacefully side by side or mixed, that conflicts had ended decades before. But now I see a completely different image, the image of a still post colonial country trying to define itself. Where do you thing is it heading? Will NC gain independence, and what will come afterwards? Sorry if I might sound offensive, but I believe that Europeans will start fleeing the island after independence. Or isn’t the situation so hard? I was also believing that inhabitants of remote oceanic islands live happy, care free and responsibility-free lives as they are self-sufficient, think they are the center of the world, and no one influences them. But I am proven wrong again, as you have your own particular problems. How is life there compared to a European or generally mainland country? Do you miss the mmainland? Do you want to return back? Do people, especially young people, from NC emigrate? Does the government encourage them to stay? Do they use renewable energy and other environmentally friendly and self-sufficient practices? Does the island have any industry? I have too many questions.
    I thing one day I will be able to visit NC. It isn’t an easy undertaking As time, planning, and, above all, money is needed. And also a person or a group sharing similar interests, that is, having the desire to make a tour of the islands, both the more axessible and the more remote places, not just wanting to stay in the same beach for all the time, as many tourists in such places do.

    Ps. The next time you hike through a forest of Grande Terre, Isle of Pines or anywhere else, please pay attention to the small ones. Yes, you have seabirds, fish, whales, but the lizards are interesting as well, if not more as they are true endemic and old species most of them at least. Don’t forget that the crested gecko was thought extinct for so long because no one searched for it. It is very probable that you will encounter them. And if you encounter them, we need photos! Thing of the thousands of NC gecko keepers all over the world, who don’t have any information whatsoever about their natural history. Regardless of searching them or not, a post on them I thing is needed. We all are waiting.
    Below I give you a video of a short documentary about the crested gecko, the first and only video of it in its habitat ever!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Stefanos. It is so wonderful to read of such enthusiasm for New Caledonia and its wildlife. We are quite fond of the geckos here and will now pay even more attention to them, following your message. Aren’t they wonderful? As to the future of the island, I do hope they find a peaceful solution. My sense is that it will take years yet to decide this island’s destiny, and even then, it shall continue to evolve. I would definitely encourage you to visit it when you can – you will love it. Kind regards – Julie

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