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New Caledonia 2019

New Caledonia, an archipelago halfway between Australia and Fiji, is an extraordinary place. While it has all the features of a tropical island - white sands, blue lagoons and graceful palms - it's also home to some remarkable plants and wildlife.
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Deplanchea speciosa

Deplanchea speciosa

Why visit?

There are abundant conifers belonging to the ancient plant family Araucariaceae, including the Cook pines (Araucaria columnaris) which grow in the coral-derived soils along the coast.

New Caledonia is considered one of the world’s most important and critically endangered places. It’s an ancient fragment of the Gondwana super-continent and 76% of its flora is endemic. It differs from many of the Pacific Islands which are of relatively recent volcanic origin.

Climate, elevation and type of soil all contribute to the rich variety and diversity of plant life. The biogeography of the island chain has been shaped by a complex and fascinating geological history. But New Caledonia is mainly known for its lagoon. It’s one of the three biggest reef systems in the world.

Tour report

Follow the tour as it happens with regular updates.

13 August 2019

After landing in Noumea on 12 August, the tour kicked off the following day with a visit to Tjibaou Kanak Cultural Centre, approx. 8km northeast of Noumea. The Centre celebrates New Caledonia’s Kanak culture – Kanak people are the indigenous inhabitants.

Next, it was off for a walk through the wet forest at Mount Koghi. Here the group saw the first monkey puzzle, Araucaria columnaris and an orchid.

14 August 2019

The second day started with a long drive north to Michel Corbasson Zoological & Forest Park. Here, they explored the Cycad forest before travelling along the coast for a picnic on the beach and a visit to the perched rock.

15 August 2019

The group enjoyed two walks with spectacular views as they reached Coeur de Voh at the north end of the island.

16 August 2019

Friday brought a visit to Tiebaghi Massif. Tiebaghi is a mine and former village near Koumac in the Northern Province. The rocks here are bright yellow or orange and came from the earth’s mantle below the crust. It’s now mined for nickel and chromium.

The group took some time to explore the old mining town before taking a walk to see some of the endemic flora.

17 August 2019

Crossing to the east coast brought wetter weather with pantropical plants.

18 August 2019

A boat trip to a nearby island (Ilot de Hienga) for a botanical walk. Some of the group also took the opportunity for some snorkelling while others enjoyed a walk along the beach.

19 August 2019

The group travelled south on the east coast to another mining area with rich flora. The journey took them along a winding road through lush country and small villages and gardens belonging to the Kanak people. They also saw a second Araucaria species: A. rulei.

20 August 2019

The first day of week two brought another chance to see Araucaria columnaris in better light.

Next up was a trip across the lagoon to Poe in a glass-bottomed boat, offering a fascinating look at the sealife including turtles, stingrays and coral.

Following a picnic on the beach, the group embarked on a 7km walk through the last area of true dry forest in New Caledonia (most were cleared for cattle farming). Here, they saw lots of strangler figs which grow up other trees, encase and strangle them, sending their own roots down to the ground.

21 August 2019

A trip to Parc des Grandes Fougères National Park for a long walk in montane forest with tree ferns and palms. Unfortunately, there were few flowers to be seen but they did come across a climbing liana and an orchid, Calanthe ventilabrum.

Next, it was off to a zoo to see New Caledonia’s national bird, the kagu. After, it was time to head to the airport for a late flight to Ile des Pins.

22 August 2019

A free day in Ile des Pins, so some of the group opted for a walk along the white, sandy, palm-lined beach where they spotted a venomous water snake!

23 August 2019

A flight back to Noumea and a drive to the southeast corner to Cape N’Dua Nature Reserve. Here they saw several orchids.

24 August 2019

The second Saturday of the tour brought more orchids and a tiny Caladenia as the group explored Blue River Provincial Park.

Also spotted were several species of conifer: Podocarpus, Dacrydium and Agathis ovata.

Then it was off to explore Madeleine Provincial Reserve. Here they saw seven new conifers, a tiny Caladenia orchid and Dracophyllum.

25 August 2019

On the last day at Blue River Provincial Park the group enjoyed a forest walk in an area with a rich flora of over 2,200 species – 82% of which are endemic! They also saw several Kagu in the wild, a giant Agathis lanceolata, many ferns and a small Dendrobium.

The AGS’ first tour to New Caledonia was a great success, filled with exciting activities and amazing sights. We’ll end with a few photos of the group enjoying themselves!

Enjoyed reading about the trip? Why not join us on one of our upcoming tours?

(Photos: David Haselgrove)