Southern Lagoon of New Caledonia

It was time to head out of Isle des Pins and as the weather was going to be reasonably calm for about 5 days we decided to head into the Southern Lagoon to enjoy a couple of the uninhabited islands. In the Southern Lagoon there are lots of islands surrounded with white sand beaches, which are great for getting some exercise walking. We had a small group of dolphins play in our wake along the way to our first island, which is always fun.

Ilot Signal one of many deserted islands in the Lagoon


Ilot Ua has a beautiful white sand beach around it and a family of Ospreys and their nests. It was nearing low tide so we took the kayaks ashore thru a small pass on the north end of the beach for a walk around the island.

Seismic Wave and SV TinTin at a stunning anchorage
osprey nest in tree ahead with babies while the parents flew above watching us
lots of abandoned osprey nests on the shore line which are huge

The water was 21deg so we grabbed our wetsuits and went in for a snorkel along the Reef to the North and the beachfront at Ua. A nice variety corals and plenty of fish life.

Our next stop was Ilot Mato where the views from the hilltop were impressive. This is why we enjoy cruising. We sat here for a good hour watching another sailboat sailing towards us, the Ospreys hunting and enjoying the views.

views from hilltop at Ilot Mato
beautiful sunset looking West to Ilot Mato

At the beach on the south corner we saw 10 black tip sharks basking in the shallows typically a sign that there is a healthy reef. There was a huge nest of Ospreys so we watched the 2 babies while mum circled above us.

Osprey nest with 2 babies

With turtles off the boat and reefs all about we headed out for some snorkeling. It surprised us to see a lot of dead coral and huge crown of thorns starfish, which are killing the reefs by eating the hard corals. We decided to stop at the large coral reef behind our boat and finally some healthy coral and lots of fish life.

crown of thorns eating the hard corals around it
healthy hard corals behind the boat at Mato
huge healthy bommies

At the south west end of the mainland near the Southern Lagoon Prony Bay is a great place to run to when the winds are too strong to be in the lagoon. There’s also a number of hikes ashore on the rich red soil.

Hike up to the lighthouse at Cap Nua from Anse Majic anchorage
walking down the rich soil trail with views into Prony Bay from Cap Nua (yes your shoes turn red)
lunch stop on our hike to Toboggan near the springs at the end of Prony Bay
views back along the valley we hiked from Site du Toboggan at the end of Prony Bay

In Prony Bay, Ilot Casey is our favorite anchorage but it’s busy as its a marine reserve and there are only 6 moorings. There is a 3km walk thru forest that used to be farmed, an area showing the nickel mining and along some nice beaches where locals come to camp.

wandering the trails on Casey within Prony Bay
views from Casey to the Vale Nickel Mine & processing plant emitting the smoke
calm anchorage here at Casey

After being in Prony Bay for about a week we wanted to head back out to the lagoon and up the west coast of the main island.

Ilot Maître is a great place to hang out watch the Kiteboarders, kayak around the island and spot turtles. On one kayak trip we spotted over 40 turtles. The highlight was this 2m Dugong who swam beside us while we were kayaking. Sorry no camera that day.

up close with the turtles at Maître

We returned to Maître a number of times as its so close to Nouméa for groceries but a nice place to hang out. While moored here one morning we spotted 2 dugongs passing thru the anchorage. They just hung out so was amazing to see them.

Amadee is a marine reserve with a lighthouse that you can climb when the Mary D arrives in from Nouméa. The 56m high lighthouse was built in 1862 in Paris, France dismantled & shipped to New Caledonia. It was first illuminated in Nov 1865 stands impressively and still works.

The waters warming up so it’s nice getting in to see the variety of fish life and turtles here. Lots of snakes come ashore in the afternoons like most of the islands around here! There an area on the island roped off with terns and puffin nests even though these guys don’t realize they should be in that area. Got dive bombed as we walked the track as they were nesting and felt we were too close.

We spent a couple of days out in the lagoon at Ilot Nge tucked in behind the reef. Ashore we found a huge nest with what we think were baby Ospreys. This was a marine reserve with lots of moorings, picnic tables and fire pits so guessing it gets busy but not while we were there.

Can you see the nest?

There was good protection at Baie Maa where we caught up with lots of NZ and Aussie boats. We continued up the coast where the landscape changed and became very dry and barren.

At Ilot Ducos we’d heard that there are wild deer, goat and horses roaming. Ashore there were a couple of huts with cooking facilities and chairs where the locals come to in the weekends to get away. Very rustic looking. A walk up over the hills following the tracks showed how dry it was and along the way we found lots of bones of dead animals. Apparently they’d had a drought a few years back and a number of goats and horses died. Looked pretty dry from our perspective and a tough environment for any animal. Never did see the deer, goats or horses roaming but we did see some footprints on the beach.

windward side of Ducos was definitely not looking too pleasant
bones of a small animal looks like a goat
The leeward side where we were anchored was perfect and had protection from a lot of winds

The winds finally calmed and we found a deserted island behind a reef called Ilot Moro, which was great for kayaking around to see the caves in the limestone rock and hard corals below us. Again there was a huge nest of Ospreys on the western side of the island who didn’t like us passing by.

the water was crystal clear here with plenty of hard colorful corals

At Ilot M’bo we found a nautilus shell sitting on the beach but alas a smelly creature was inside it still. Snorkeling on the inner reef had lots of hard corals with some greens, blues and yellows and the water was so nice.

It’s that time of year when the rallies are gathering here to depart to NZ and Australia so the anchorages are busy. Time for us to depart as well. Where has time gone? After checking out we headed to Ilot Signal for our last night and caught up with some of the boats from the NZ Pacific Rally that we’d met in various anchorages over the past few months.

last night party on beach with group from the Pacific Rally; very friendly group
great sunset to end our time in New Caledonia
early morning: a huge turtle swimming around our boat; must be good luck


We are Australia bound and will be checking in at Southport on the Gold Coast just south of Brisbane some 786nm away.

Back in New Caledonia

On our passage from Vanuatu we ended up catching 2 Mahi and 1 tuna so stocked the freezer full, as it was empty for arriving in Nouméa. On Monday September 2nd we arrived at Port du Sud Marina for clearing in, which was easy as the marina handled everything except immigration for us. We sorted immigration the next day as the immigration office closes at 11:30am. Great hours for them but not for us. You get very spoilt staying at a marina and we were lucky as we had a locals spot so it was a nice protected berth, especially when the West winds blew threw soon after arrival.

a very busy marina but perfect place to be to do things on land

Lots to do in Nouméa
Walking around downtown and cycling the pathways had us entertained after we’d been to the fruit n vegetable market to restock our fridges.

It’s amazing the boulangeries around here with tasty baguettes and patisseries

Cycled to Anse Vata and Baie du Citron to enjoy the beaches

a nice cold well deserved beer at 3 brasseurs on Baie du Citron

The Acquarium on a drizzly day was perfect for learning a little about New Caledonia’s fish life, turtles, and coral life. We got to see lots of sea life we don’t typically see up close and learn a little about ones we have seen before.

coral tanks with colorful giant clams in the bottom

Juvenile Zebra Sharks on the sand – never seen these before

A beautiful Neopoleon Wrass with a black tip shark both of which we have seen while snorkeling

Hiking 3.5km up to Malaoui Peak at Mount Koghi had awesome views over Nouméa and out to the lagoon. Malaoui is also called le Chapeau de Gendarme (the “policeman’s hat”) because of its resemblance to the hat worn by gendarmes at the end of the 19th century. Definitely felt our muscles after this hike.

trail to Malaoui after we came climbed out of the forest

Looking down on Noumea

Time to head out of the marina and the luxuries of being land lovers again.

Isle des Pins
Our first stop was Gadji where we stayed for 2 nights did some kayaking and were about to head to the coral garden for a snorkel when a dive boat stopped by and told us that you can no longer anchor in Gadji and that it was a marine reserve. Oops. The Chiefs on Isle de Pins have closed a number of anchorages to yachts on Isle des Pins after the referendum held in 2018 for New Caledonia to leave France had not been successful. It was a shame as its a beautiful area by water. We were so lucky to have experienced it in 2017.

Walking at low tide on one of the beaches at Gadji

we just love getting about on our kayaks

So it was down to Kuto Bay to another gorgeous spot with a lovely crescent shaped soft white sand beach where we anchored off the Kuto hotel with Pic Nga in the background.

from SW to Pic Nga over beach and hotel

The cruise ship pulled in for the day from Sydney with lots of passengers so we decided to get away from the crowds. The walk down to the boulangerie near the prison ruins and up past the pump house to cross the ridges over to Pic Nga (262m) is excellent. A great hike with stunning views all along the way.

Hike along ridge up to Pic Nga looking back to Gadji

A stop for lunch at the top of Pic Nga looking south

Heading down the maion trail to the anchorage and cruise ship below

Given we couldn’t anchor anywhere apart from Kuto and Ille Brosse we decided to hire a car from the Kuto hotel to head out to see some sights, which we hadn’t seen when we were here in 2017, as these were too far to cycle to.

Cave of Queen Hortense was huge with lots of stalactites

Hike to Baie Upi, a beautiful green

Natural Pools near Baie d’Oro – crystal clear with plenty of fish n some coral

walk along Baie d’Oro on the South side at low tide used to be an anchorage for yachts

Kanak ladies playing a version of cricket in their team dresses

Heading into the Southern Lagoon to some of the deserted islands.

Grand Terre (Mainland), New Caledonia

After leaving the Loyalty Islands we sailed over to Canala, on the East Coast of Grand Terre, a base for the nickel mining in the area. Canala is in a very picturesque valley with mountains all around. We went by dinghy up the river spotting mines on the way to the town, a great stop to get some much needed groceries and see some local artwork and wood carvings all scattered around town.

we have our Baguettes and Brie; with a view down the river to our anchorage

The whole coastline has some amazing mountain scenery of rich oranges, reds and greens.

perfect anchorage with friends Oceana1 at Neumeni

Great place to get off the boat and go for a walk up into them there hills.

Lunch stop with a view to our next anchorage at Port Boqete

At Port Boqete we stopped at the marine park at Ile Némou for some snorkeling at the reef and along the shoreline around the anchorage. A lot of soft and hard corals but not many fish. Saw the biggest conque shell, which was still alive and great to see given everyone likes to collect shells.

with Bretts hand to give perspective.

On the shoreline we spotted a brightly colored church so went into the small Kanak village of Lémia, where 80 people live. Houses and the church only. The local store is 20km away.
Necis; a friendly guy with lots of personality, who liked to sing and tell us stories, showed us around the village. There was a well manicured walkway that separated the houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final stop on the SE coast was Yaté where we took the dinghy up the river to the hydroelectric plant to find the grocery store for ice cream, beer and wine. Not sure where it goes!

Seas and winds were calm so we decided to head straight to Gadji, in Ile des Pins, (see separate blog entry).

After enjoying the Kuto area in Ile des Pins we had a quick downwind sail to Baie de Prony on the South Coast of the mainland, catching a nice sized tuna along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baie de Prony has lots of anchorages where you could spend time seeing the sights from the many hilltops by hiking the never ending trails here or go kayaking and snorkeling.

a view of Baie de Prony from a hike we did to the lighthouse from Anse Majic anchorage

 

 

 

Up at the lighthouse Brett & Aline are admiring the views out to the lagoon.

 

 

 

Moose is an abandoned dog on Ilot Casey in Prony, who cruisers all seem to hear about. He reminded us an old friend and was very friendly and likes to go hiking with you around the island. A marked trail takes you around the island in about 1.5hrs and has some nice scenery. Moose along the way shows you how he survives on the island digging crabs and eating sea cucumbers! Of course all the cruisers feed him and give him water.

nice anchorage with mooring balls to protect the coral

a view over to the nickel mining operation in the Baie

Snorkeling at Illot Casey had some little gems amongst the mostly white hard antler type coral.

Amadee Island, South of Noumea has a 56m tall lighthouse built in 1862 in France and was disassembled and transported to Noumea for its opening here in 1865. Nice views of the marine park after climbing the 247 steps.

 

 

 

 

Illot Maître is a small island with a resort 3nm south of Noumea and a Mecca for kiteboarding. In the weekends there are upward of 100 kites out. There were lots of turtles floating around our boat, which was cool.

Kiteboarders getting ready with Noumea in the background

It was finally onto Noumea where we were lucky and got a berth at the Port Moselle Marina. There are hundreds of boats here in Noumea! We’ve been so lucky with the weather while here. Time to investigate the city, reprovision, make some passage meals, do oil changes, wash clothes ready for cooler weather and check out.

Load and loads of boats

A visit to the Museum near the marina showed the history of the people here. Really interesting with great exhibits and English signs, yeah! Some of these garments below must have been very scratchy on the skin!
We cycled out to Baie de Citron on a bike path to see everyone out enjoying the good weather. Lots of restaurants, clubs, hotels and a nice beach, you could see why it was popular.
The bar at the Moselle marina was a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy the music in the evenings. 

Sadly time to say goodbye to Aline and Luc who are heading to Sydney. Always tough saying goodbye to people you have had a good time with, but then this is part of this lifestyle. Will miss Aline’s fishing skills!
Happy Halloween everyone.

At Barca brewery at Baie de Citron and Halloween decorations are everywhere.

Oct 31 here so time for us to move on too.

Ile des Pins, New Caledonia

We’d heard so much about the Southern Lagoon and in particular Ile des Pins with its crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches and lots of reefs with colorful coral gardens.

Views up at Pic N’ga near Kuto

 

On a sadder note, from 1872 – 1913 Ile des Pins was a political convict settlement where France sent by ship its prisoners (3000 Frenchmen & 12 women) to the island. Ruins can be seen around the island and in particular the Kuto area.
Brett at one of the many prison ruins near Kuto built in 1881.

 

 

Gadji
What a beautiful spot! There are a few small islands and lots of mushroom limestone formations; a great place to kayak and snorkel.

this is not color enhanced, the sun was out & the lagoon here had incredible colored water

It’s the snorkeling here we will remember as it was awesome, other than the cold water to which our long wet suits had to come out. There was a good variety of coral with vibrant different colors and textures and plenty of fish about.
Kuto
Kuto Bay is nicely protected with a soft white sand beach and a resort with a restaurant right on the beach (serving very expensive food and alcohol). Interestingly no alcohol can be purchased at the local stores here you have to buy it at the hotel!

Anchorage with Pic N’ga Mountain in the background

We ended up staying in Kuto to wait out some strong gusty winds but it was a great place to be as the bay was protected, the bakery and store were down the road, there was a Dugong swimming around to watch out for and there were a lot of places to go hiking. Always interesting what you come across when out hiking.

Wandering around some ruins Brett & Luc came across some Prisoner cells; very small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

private beaches tucked away

A hike up the mountainous Pic N’ga trek (262m), the islands highest point with Luc & Aline had to be made to see the fantastic views. Great having a cruise ship in to give us perspective for how big the bay was.

the trail up the side of the mountain was well maintained and good exercise

Boats heading to NZ seem to use this as a jump off point for when they see a good weather window so we’ll probably take advantage of this protected bay for a good nights sleep before we head south.

A truely beautiful area with lots of outlying islands and reefs to visit. There are a lot more small islands with excellent snorkeling and diving so we will have to return. Until next time! Back to the mainland to see more sights. Time is flying……

The Lovely Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia

John & Leanne from the Down Under Rally (www.downunderrally.com) organized for 7 boats to clear in at Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, which was excellent and very easy. They even organized a van so we could all get a SIM card for Internet access and groceries after emptying our fridge and freezers of food for bio-security clearance. There were great supermarkets in Lifou for stocking up with fresh veg again and Brie and baguettes; yum!

back with all our groceries

Leanne from Ooroo and I hanging out on some interesting tables near the dock

We were then free to cruise the islands and reefs on our way to Noumea the main port for clearance. The Loyalty Islands are made up of 3 main Islands; Ouvéa, Lifou and Maré. We were lucky to see how special and different it was here compared to any of the French Polynesian islands we have been to. Not a lot of cruisers come this way after clearing in.

traditional Melanasian huts that local people live and congregate in

 

 

These islands still have a lot of culture and tradition alive in their everyday lives. Weaving, sculpturing, fishing all very common activities here.

 

 

 

Most of the population speaks French, very little English and the local language is a different dialect of Melanesian on each island. The women here wear very brightly colored long flowing dresses, which after being here in this heat with the sun beating down for a few days, I could see the benefits of. Everyone we met was very friendly.

Local Ladies cleaning the beach

Lifou and Maré are uplifted limestone plateaus covered in pine trees with big bays, crystal clear blue water and colorful coral close to shore. At Lifou, we walked to Notre-Damn de Lourdes chapel built in 1898 sitting high on the cliff at the entrance to the Bay near where we anchored.
The roads on both Ouvéa and Lifou were sealed and flat so perfect for getting the bikes out to see parts of the islands. A 25km plus return trip on Ouvéa to find baguettes had us passing lots of traditional homes and people coming to see what these strange folding bikes were. Shame our French is soooo bad!

Entering the Grand Chefferie in Mouli, Ouvéa to obtain permission to be here and visit the island

traditional homesteads on Ouvéa

the graveyards here are colorfully decorated

Lots of interesting looking churches.

Ouvéa was stunning with its long white sand beach. “Tres Jolie”. Time to relax, walk and enjoy the 25km beach with shells galore. Luc & Aline S/V Oceana1 after hearing how beautiful it was made the overnight trip from Noumea to join us and help us with our French!
The bridge between Mouli and Lekiny on Ouvéa had spectacular views within the lagoon and lots of fish, eagle rays and big turtles swimming in the current.

We’d also heard about the Lekiny Caves but it’s only possible to visit with a guide and only on certain days in conjunction with low tide. Was definitely worth the visit. Loved our transport to the caves along with friends S/V Oceana1 & Second Wind. Luc & Aline were great interpreters for all us English speaking people.

Lekiny Caves behind us, yes we cross this river.

great views back to the Mouli bridge

In 1953 a cyclone hit the island of Ouvéa and the local people all went to the Lekiny Caves to seek protection. They all survived even though the island suffered a lot of damage so the people built an alter in the main cave and special ceremonies have been held here since.
This has definitely been a special place to visit with very few cars, beautiful beaches, friendly locals and incredible sunsets again.
Off to see more of New Caledonia.