Top 10 Ways to Experience the World's Largest Lagoon

New Caledonia

One year on from having the beautiful lagoon added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, New Caledonia Tourism is celebrating with their list of the top ten things to do to best enjoy the area.

The lagoon lies within 1600km of coral reef that encircles the New Caledonian mainland, La Grande Terre. Its length is broken only by a few ocean passes and is dotted with atolls, islands, shipwrecks and lighthouses, creating a necklace around the mainland and offering a range of recreational activities to enjoy.

10. GLASS BOTTOM BOAT

The easiest way to see the splendour of New Caledonia’s reef is with one of the glass bottom boat operators at Amédée Island or the Isle of Pines. Marvel at the stunning underwater scenery without even getting wet!

9. WINDSURF

Due to the favourable trade winds and the still waters created by the reef, New Caledonia is well known on the international windsurfing circuit. The best spots are Anse Vata and “la Côte-Blanche” in Nouméa, which attract top international windsurfers. The areas of Poé (Bourail) and Ténia are also well-known in local windsurfing circles and hiring quality equipment is easy.

8. SNORKEL WITH TURTLES

Near Bourail, Turtle Bay is the perfect place to see four of the seven species of turtle found in the Pacific region. The surrounding white sand beaches are a major nesting ground for the green turtle and a very popular spot for picnics. The snorkelling inside the reef is excellent and easily accessible.

7. SURF

Low pressure systems between Tasmania, Sydney and New Zealand send ground swells north and hit the Caledonian reef a few kilometres out to sea creating a consistent quality swell all year round. The Nëkwéta and Ouano Surf Camps are located north of Nouméa and offer packages to cater for all surfing levels.

6. DIVE

A common way to experience the lagoon – but impossible to overlook. The world’s second largest coral reef boasts a collection of over 15,000 marine species and extraordinary architecture made up of arches, tunnels, canyons and caves perfect for diving enthusiasts. Many sites can be explored up to 20 metres in depth, accessible for amateurs.

5. FLY FISHING

Several operators offer cruiser and catamaran expeditions for rod fishing in the lagoon or deep sea fishing further off the coast. The prize catch in New Caledonia is the bone fish, a species found in only a handful of locations worldwide.

4. SAIL

Fanned by tradewinds, New Caledonia’s lagoon is perfect for sailing, with deserted islands, reefs, atolls and cays waiting to be explored. Yachts of many varieties are available from charter operators, while the more adventurous can try a pirogue, a traditional outrigger sail with timber construction and inverted triangle sails. Expeditions from a few hours to a full day can be arranged through resorts.

3. WHALE WATCH

Humpback whales can be seen in the lagoon during the mating season from July to September. Several operators take whale-watching excursions during this time. The curious nature of the whales means that they often get quite close – a truly unforgettable experience.

2. HELICOPTER

If you haven’t ever considered seeing a reef from the air, this is the place to start reconsidering. Scenic helicopter flights are available, from short sightseeing trips to a full day tour.

A 30 minute flight will show you spectacular Amédée Lighthouse, the coral reef and its small islands, while a 60 minute flight will take you on a spectacular tour revealing circuits over the southern lagoon, the Great South and the Isle of Pines.

1. OCEAN WALK

Underwater walks are a modern twist on the old diving helmets– but a lot more fun!

Without a dive licence, young and old can get a close up view of the fish and corals walking along the ocean floor, and a tour of the seabed led by an experienced guide all without getting your hair wet … and you can even wear glasses if need be. The unique excursions operate out of Noumea at the Kuendu Bay Marine Sanctuary and at Duck Island, just a five minute boat ride from the popular Anse Vata bay.

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