NEW CALEDONIA - INDEX

Oct 23 - Nov 21/2005

About 600 miles from Vanuatu and about 1500 km from Australia, New Caledonia has been part of France for about 150 years, traditions being brought to the island first by French convicts. However the Kanak's tribal customs are still alive, despite adverse conditions. Very few Caledonians speak English.

The main island is the largest, bigger than Tahiti and the third largest archipelago in the Pacific, after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Surrounded by one of the world's largest reefs, second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, colorful coral make for great snorkeling. Relatively close by are the beautiful Loyalty Islands, where we made landfall, and the Isle of Pines.

New Caledonia is definitely a land of contrasts and completely different from anywhere else we have been. It was unusual to see the shoreline backed predominately by pine trees interspersed with palms. The  beaches of the Loyalty Islands have fine white talcum-powder like sand and the colors of the clear water range from shades of turquoise to deep blue. The mainland is arid and desert-like, the landscape a mix of small bush-like vegetation growing in mineral rich red soil. Much of the southern area has been extensively strip mined for nickel and there exists a huge erosion problem in New Caledonia.
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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. We made landfall at We on the island of Lifou, Loyalty Islands.