Hienghène will spoil you for beauty

Photo Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes

Photo Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes

We had torrential rains last week, which among other things, took the life of a 6-year-old boy. As families mourned, a baby was born in a fire station, as the rains flooded the roads blocking the mother’s trip to a Nouméa hospital.

Before the rain rent the island, we traveled up to Hienghène, in northeast New Caledonia 2 weekends ago. We had already postponed our trip by a week, due to rain, and decided to risk getting up there and back before the rains started again. During the 6-hour car trip (with an hour’s break), we were spoiled for beauty, crossing the mountains, surprised by even lusher, greener forests than we’ve found in other parts of the island, the unexpected lagoon views and towering black calcium formations (“The Hen” and “The Sphinx” among others).

Photo JH

Photo JH

Landing at the Koulnoue Village hotel (the old “Club Med”), we were surprised by the lack of a warm welcome (“If you want to eat here this evening, go see the people in the restaurant to reserve.”) and the general lack of information about the hotel and any activities (“See the folder in your room.”). Some of you may remember the service and warm welcome we loved in both Poum and Maré, and so will appreciate our slight surprise. As everyone had been so friendly on the drive up and in the approach to, and in, Hienghène (waves, smiles, friendly honking horns), and as we had heard so many wonderful things about Hienghène, and were admittedly tired, we just trundled off to the restaurant to reserve and to our bungalow to read the folder.

But the beauty of the place!

Photo JH

Photo JH

Admittedly the hotel is run down (more so than Hotel Malabou in Poum, we felt, and most any other place we’d been to in Caledonia), but slanting palms framing a lagoon grow on you pretty quickly. We went for a walk, watched the sunset from our lagoon-facing terrace, donned insect repellent and lined up for dinner. I do so wish hotels would serve dinner before 19.30, for the sake of children and families, but this hotel’s answer was to screen “Epic” on a big screen for the kids at 20.15. Ours was exhausted and falling asleep at the table.

We knew we were in high season when we saw how busy the hotel restaurant (a buffet) was that Saturday night. My goodness! If you didn’t rush the buffet, you ended up with chipolatas as your main (which was indeed my case, as I have a horror of rushing anything, particularly when there are large groups of people or lines). As we’ve been to other buffets here in New Caledonia, I was disappointed by the quantity and quality. But again, we were tired, and only too happy to trundle off to bed early.

Photo JH

Photo JH

The best part of our stay in Hienghène was the half-day excursion we did the next day with Babou Ocean Side. Again, my goodness! This time, for all the best reasons. We loved this excursion (which, by the way, was not in the hotel folder, but had come highly recommended by a friend. Among other excursions, Babou Ocean Side offers a half-day island and snorkeling tour. This was a boat ride to a small islet, an hour-long guided tour of the islet where we learned so much about 25 plants and trees, coffee/tea/biscuits and then an hour-long snorkeling guided tour, complete with wet suits, masks, tubas and flippers. Of all the excursions we’ve done in New Caledonia, this was by far the most educational. We really recommend it!

Photo JH

Photo JH

Our tour guide (Thomas) was friendly, knowledgeable and responsive. We did have an unfortunate incident with a hermit crab (of which there are many on Ilot Hienga – or Yeega) – in which Thomas put one in our son’s hand. The hermit crab decided all of a sudden to pinch our son’s palm and hold on for dear life. I can tell you, it took us a while to pry the hermit crab off, during which time our son was, well, in tears. Afterwards, he built a hermit crab prison, beach side, and we’re happy to report that his hand is fully recovered!

All in all, we loved Hienghène. Would we go back? Probably for another tour with Babou Ocean Side (with whom you can also dive, learn about the mangroves, trek in one of the rivers, learn more about the Kanak tribes as well as the calcium formations). We’ll probably stay in Poindimie next and visit Hienghène from there – looking forward!

Photo JH

Photo JH

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11 thoughts on “Hienghène will spoil you for beauty

    • And we had a great stay in 2006 (apart from the rat droppings on the top bunks)! I think it just probably suffers from comparison – if we had not been to Poum, Ouvéa and Maré mere months before, we would have had nothing to compare it to. 🙂

  1. Hey Julie, you should try the Tieti in Poindimié next time, it was the best for me during our road trip around the Grande Terre. The evasion 130 in Sarraméa is fine too. The Malabou was one of the worst for us 🙂 I will try the Gite de Poingam next time where we ate an excellent dish.

    • Hi Francois! Great to hear from you! Funny you should mention Poindimie – that’s our next destination in May. From everything I’ve heard, we can expect good things. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear the Malabou was one of the worst. You’ll have to tell us why! Thanks for your suggestions, all the same. Wishing you and yours well! – Julie

      • Hi Julie, well, we had the family bungalow at the Malabou, and honestly it was really old and it didn’t completely fit a family with young kids. The room wasn’t completely clean and the wiriness wasn’t really “standard” if we could say it like that :). For the cost, I excepted more. The staff was ok, even though some of them looked a bit lost, especially the girl who was supposed to take care of the grill : my rating pork was not fully cooked…
        You can go to the Tieti, it’s a bit expensive but the staff is very kind and the bungalow are really nice (especially those in front of the sea). I hope you and your family are well. We keep in touch. Cheers – François

  2. Thanks for these extra details, Francois – very useful! I always find that wifi access is limited in New Caledoniian hotels, but the plus is it’s free. I couldn’t believe how much New Zealand hotels charged recently for wifi access. Why?!?! Looking forward to Poindimie even more now, thanks to your comments, and hope we can see each other soon! Best – Julie

  3. Actually, by wiriness I meant Electrical Installation (I wasn’t completely sure that electrical installation was correct, so I checked Google translate… Bad idea 🙂 ) The wifi isn’t really effective in New Caledonian hotels, but as you said, at least it’s free. Best – François

  4. Pingback: Elections, an acid leak and Poindimié | New Caledonia Today

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