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.

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