INTREPID traveler Olivia Merlen kicks off her travel series on New Caledonia with a journey through the red South.
Beyond its exotic islands and lagoons, there is something that differentiates New Caledonia from the other islands of the Pacific. It’s the perfect place for anyone with a profound love for The Great Outdoors.
I spent some time their recently and couldn’t resist getting out and into the incredible scenery around me. So many parts of the island are perfect for walking and, if you want to save money, great for camping too.
The red South
In New Caledonia, the Great South stands apart from the rest of the island with its dry forests, earth that mixes reds with fluorescent greens and deep blue river that takes its colour from the mineral-rich rocks beneath it.
You can only get to this section of the island by a car – a four-wheel drive is recommended. The road curves, goes up and down mountain lookouts, crosses small flooded bridges and travels through a field of wind mills perched in the middle of nowhere.
This part of New Caledonia is perfect for hikers. The entire Southern Province is crisscrossed with short or long walks, some of which are undiscovered or only used by the locals. Along the rivers, you can take a break and refill your bottles in the many waterholes. Unlike Australia, no dangerous animals live here.
The “Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue” [Blue River Provincial Park] is probably the most famous Southern park. The park’s namesake, the Blue River, crosses the park and flows into Creek Pernod, which reminds many a French traveler, like me, of the drink/aperitif of the same name.
The park is home to a rich array of flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for the kagu – a threatened species of bird that doesn’t fly and has an interesting call. Park visitors often try to mimic the kagu’s cry in an effort to attract them. Further into the park, the submerged forest and artificial Yate lake gives way to lunar landscapes in the park.
Advanced walkers can take the GR1 track goes from Dumbea to Prony. You can follow this track all the way to the Goro Nickel plant, which is a 10km walk.
This walk is a fantastic way to enjoy the beautiful New Caledonian weather. We stopped at one of the waterfalls for a quick swim. There was a shed where we had a picnic and the amazing lookout on Prony Bay was well worth the walk. It’s also one of the few place where you can see carnivorous plants and wild orchids.
At the end of the walk, we arrived at the sea and beaches of red sand just outside the small village of Prony. Here we discovered the remains of the penal colony and admired one of the biggest tree roots I’ve ever seen – part of the famous banyan tree.
Blue River Provincial Park – Parc de la Riviere Bleue website
Tickets: 400CFP ($4) entry per person
Information on the GR1 NC walking track
Get information on various hikes in the South at the Tourist Information Centre in Noumea or on its website
Stay tuned for our upcoming article on camping in New Caledonia and the tropical north.