New Caledonia is already something of an undiscovered gem. And even those that flock to this slice of heaven in the Pacific Ocean usually only venture as far as Noumea or the stunning Isle of Pines.

But hey people – New Caledonia is over 350km long and over 70km wide, covering diverse geography, from mountains to lagoons, from valleys to lakes.

Recently I had the pleasure of discovering some of the highlights of New Caledonia’s North Province and Mare in the Loyalty Islands, two less-visited parts of the country that ooze tourist appeal.

And yes, it absolutely does ooze tourist appeal, rivalling – in my opinion – other Pacific island nations that I won’t even dare to name (here are 5 reasons why you should suggest New Caledonia over other Pacific destinations).

Don’t believe me? Then read on – I double dare you!

 

1. Flying over the Heart of Voh and the world’s largest lagoon

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For me, this was the absolute highlight of my stay in New Caledonia, and I would even considering it to be enough of a reason to visit the French territory.

Flying over the Heart of Voh in a small plane is an adrenaline pumping experience in itself.

But make it a 50 minute scenic flight over the world’s largest lagoon – a kaleidoscope of greens and blues converging in a sparkling ocean below – and a natural mangrove formation that resembles a heart when seen from above, and hey, this is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Isn’t that what travelling is about?

 

Where to play: 50 minute scenic flights can be booked through Hotel Hibiscus (see below).

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Where to stay: Hotel Hibiscus is a boutique 3-star hotel in Kone that offers free Wi-Fi, a Turkish bath, a swimming pool, and undoubtedly the the best buffet breakfast in town – fresh French pastries and croissants are baked daily here. The hotel also offers stay/fly packages for competitive prices.

 

2. Snorkelling with fish and turtles in the crystalline waters on Hyega Island

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The great thing about New Caledonia is that you don’t have to venture too far to snorkel in a colourful underwater world teeming with marine life.

Surrounded by the world’s largest lagoon, reaching an area rich with underwater life – including turtles and blue parrot fish– is only ever a short boat ride away; for example, Hyega Island, just off the Hienghene coastline in North New Caledonia.

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Where to play: Babou Côté Océan offer half-day snorkel trips and a guided bush walk on the remote island just off the Hienghene coastline. Tours include all equipment (including wetsuits) plus morning tea/coffee. Camping is also possible on the mainland.

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Where to stay: Koulnoué Village is a 3-star hotel that used to be a Club Med property. It has been recently refurbished and is set on a gorgeous stretch of Hienghene coastline offering 50 bungalows, free Wi-Fi, swimming pool and breakfast.

*Check out some of these pics from North New Caledonia:

 

3. Lunch with the locals at a Kanak homestay

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New Caledonia’s island location means fresh seafood is always on hand.

On the island of Mare in the Loyalty Islands, I was lucky enough to tuck into the biggest, and tastiest home-cooked lobster I’d ever had the pleasure of eating. I also tried the Kanak traditional dish bougna which is a combination of taro, yam, sweet potato, banana, and pieces of either chicken, fish, crab, prawns or lobster wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a ground oven.

I worked up quite the appetite for this lunch by spending the morning checking out Mare’s stunning natural attractions with my guide Mr Enoka. Attractions visited included the Natural Aquarium and the Bone Hole.

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Where to play: Mr ENOKA Wakol guides tourists around his home of Mare. He can be contacted via email at [email protected] and by phone on +687 878 362

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Where to stay: Nengone Village Hôtel sits on a stunning white sand beach in a secluded patch of forest and offers bungalow style accomodation, a swimming pool and a buffet breakfast.

*Check out some of these pics from my time in Mare:

To learn more about New Caledonia, check out 5 myths that were busted at the New Caledonia Rendezvous 2016 and visit  http://www.new-caledonia.com.au

Tell us about your experiences travelling New Caledonia in the comments section below.