Noumea, New Caledonia

Noumea, New Caledonia

New Caledonia was so named because it reminded the explorer who named it, of Scotland.  However, the islands that make up this country currently belong to France.  New Caledonia is another Melanesian island group which is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Australia.   It is another former bastion of cannibalism.  Noumea is the capital city of the South Province, and it is located on the country’s main island, a very large and beautiful island called Grande Terre, which has a look totally different, once again, from all the other islands we’ve visited on this trip.  Our entry to the harbor was through what appeared to be an incredibly narrow passage.  The passage was actually plenty wide for us.  But it was interesting to watch the process of getting docked, as the tide was low and we stirred up a lot of mud or sand from the bottom in the process.  Even the tug boat that was standing by to help us was stirring up the bottom.

Since our excursion was not until afternoon, we went souvenir shopping at the visitor center just a few steps away from the ship. They had some beautiful things there, especially the wood sculptures.  Our excursion was called ‘Noumea Mangrove Discovery’.  It took us out to an area where the mangroves have been preserved, where we got to learn about the two different types they have there (one has roots that stick up from the water, similar to the ‘knees’ of the bald cypress).  We saw several birds, several types of crabs, and large numbers of mud skippers.  The mud skippers are really amazing animals: they are fish with fins that operate like legs, and they do just fine out of the water.  When they move they appear to be walking on the water.  They are a type of goby fish which can breath through their skin while out of water (where their gills work).  Their fins have adapted so they can scoot around on ground and even climb out on the mangrove roots.  They are fascinating creatures.  After seeing these we know that the Christian fish symbols that have legs & Darwin written inside the outline, that we’ve seen on cars, actually represent a real animal…  New Caledonia is one of many parts of the world that have realized the importance of the mangrove swamps to many species of fish and other water animals as well as to man.  Not only do the mangrove roots provide great breeding areas for many species but when bad weather comes the swamps can absorb or at least reduce the strength of the impact of wind and waves.

One of the interesting things about New Caledonia for nature lovers is that it has a large number of endemic (found nowhere else) species.  A prominent example of this is the Cook Pine or Columnar Pine, which looks a lot like the well-known Norfolk Island Pine from the New Zealand area.  We will show more of these when we cover Ile de Pins, New Caledonia.

                                                                                    A Mudskipper

The excursion also took us to an overlook where there are a couple of old cannons that were placed in World War II to defend the island.  They have since been made unserviceable.  Once we left the overlook, our bus took us back to the ship via a scenic route.

After the excursion we walked around town a little bit just to see what was there.  We did not see anything unusual there, but they did have a beautiful park.  There are more photos from our visit in the photo album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015