Thursday, 8 July 2010

Anse Vata, New Caledonia

Itchy feet again? Yep, it's your neighbourhood globetrotter reporting in from a tiny coral island off the coast of Noumea. Looking back across the water, I see the hotel mile along Anse Vata beach, and the towering mountains beyond the city.

Please excuse me if this post is a little scatterbrained. Another time I’ll get some background information for you on Noumea proper, but for now, all I’ve seen so far is the beach and this island.

A yellow water taxi brought me here this morning for the snorkelling. Alighting from the boat into shallow water, I stepped onto a beach consisting of strangely-shaped coral pieces. This is the Ile aux Canards,though I never saw a duck here. It is small enough to walk around in five minutes, each angle offering new views of the lush and rugged mainland.

We are still firmly inside the lagoon made by the protective barrier reef that surrounds New Caledonia's Grande Terre. Off to the east, white breakers are just visible beyond the Amedee lighthouse.

Anse Vata is where the tourists stay, but there aren't  too many here now in the tropical winter. At 25 degrees Celsius, that's equal to summer back home in NZ. There are a couple of decent restaurants and bakeries, but it's quite a hike to the supermarket.

Everything's pricey here, for the simple reason that it's nearly all imported. Even the butter comes from France - but boy, is it good! Tropical ambience mingles with European chic to make for a unique experience.

This island paradise is in fact still a colony of France, and all the locals are French citizens, whether of Kanak or European origin. They gather at the beach to sing and play bowls, and I've even seen them napping on the grass under the palm trees.

The aquarium at Anse Vata is well worth a visit. You get a real close look at brilliantly diverse fish and deep-sea life forms. I was particularly taken with the glowing corals in yellow and orange and blue, displayed in a pitch-dark room without artificial light.

And here at the Ile aux Canards, I've floated amidst hundreds of brightly-coloured fish just a few metres from the shore. This is a great place to be, and especially for us New Zealanders - it is only a three hour flight from home.

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