Thanks to the team at Go Holidays, AirCalin and New Caledonian Tourism I took part in a 5 day visit to New Caledonia to take part in a Famil so I could learn all about the stunning islands and what they have to offer the Kiwi traveller.
Firstly we got to stay at the Sheraton Deva Golf Resort and Spa on the northern cost of the main island and this is the most stunning setting and very serene.
I instantly felt relaxed and the Bungalows are a real treat with white stone mosaic showers and your own private balcony, ours overlooking a banyon tree full of birds. We got to see the fantastic apartments and they have options for groups so the perfect setting for a group of men, golf, hunting deer and deep sea fishing all on your doorstep or for ladies, horse trekking, the spa and great wines!!! I took part in a two hour horse trek and the ride along the beach was particularly memorable as were the meals in the stunning restaurant.
Then we spent a day travelling down to Noumea the main city. Along the way we visited the graveyard of NZ soldiers and airmen who served in the Pacific. This is set on the top of a hill overlooking the forest and is a fitting tribute to their bravery and it is sad to see them so far from home but a nice place to visit none the less. Several stops later we arrive into Noumea with it's population of 100,000 it is a bustling city but the waves of the locals give it a real community feel unlike other cities I have visited. There are all tones of skin colour and broad smiles add to the festive air our group have.
We spent the first night at the Chateau Royal in a one bedroom apartment which is located on a beautiful beach. The apartment is very well kitted out with a full kitchen and stunning bathroom. the balcony gives added space and with access straight onto the beach it is a quick ten minute walk to the shops at L' Anse Vata Beach. The restaurant with it's large open air balcony for dining deserves particular mention as do the desserts. Leave the diets behind as the food in New Caledonia is amazing. Fusion dining with fresh fish, venison and fabulous steaks from the local beef make it worthy of it's reputation for great dining.
A visit to the Ramada Hotel was great and the Sports bar and deck area overlooking the pool make this a Hotel that Kiwi's will love. Good size apartments with full kitchens and a supermarket nearby make self-catering a breeze.
The Hilton Hotel is situated right in front of the Ramada and has prime views of L' Anse Vata Bay. Shops and restaurants are right on your doorstep and the apartments are stunning with large balconies kitted out with a dining table, chairs and a sun lounger that is hard to resist and why would you.
In the evening we are treated to site visit of the well priced Nouvata Parc Hotel which is also in the L' Anse Vata Bay and it surrounded buy fabulous restaurants as well as their own where we are treated to a seafood buffet and a Tahititan dance show. There is a large Tahitian population on the island as they came for the work in the nickel mines in the 1950s. The fitness of the dancers is amazing and the broad smiles never falter even when the hip shaking reaches a crescendo! The Hotel itself is slowly being refurbished and these rooms featuring a small kitchenette whilst smaller a very well appointed and the fitout has upgraded them to a good level of accommodation.
The next day a 25 min boat ride takes us to The Escapade Island Resort with the only over-water bungalows in New Caledonia. They are no longer allowed to build them as it means disturbing the coral to build the footings. These bungalows are a real treat with the panoramic views from the deck and the chance to see sea turtles, fish and other marine life in the clear blue sea below you. The garden bungalows are being re-furbished and offer good accommodation especially for families with a queen and two single beds. The restaurant offers buffet dining and you can get an all inclusive rate. The food was fantastic and of a high quality including French cheeses and breads baked by the French chef. There is snorkelling, paddle boarding and kayaking available and a well thought out pool area is safe for the little ones with views over the water from the restaurant and bar area.
Our final night is spent in the luxurious Le Meridien which has had a total refurbishment which took two years. The pool in particular is stunning and the cafe set right on the beach from which you can see the whole of L' Anse Vata Bay. Our room has the best bathroom of any we have stayed in and features a double vanity, large walk in show and free standing bath. The balconies have a day bed as well and table and chairs. The perfect place to sit and soak up the warmth. For very hot days there are shutters so you can close yourself in.
New Caledonia is certainly different from what I expected. Larger, cheaper and friendler but it is the natural beauty and the great locals that make it stand out. The Kanak people are warm with large welcome smiles and everyone genuinely wants you to have a fabulous time. There are so many islands to visit and I shall certainly make a point of going back to explore some more..............