New Caledonia is one of my very favorite South Pacific cruising destinations and during the 11 years I have been captain of Espiritu Santo I've enjoyed exploring the multitude of islands and anchorages around Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines.
Every South Pacific cruising area has something special to offer the owner and guests of superyachts and that special quality differs from one island to the next - even within a single country. But if I stop to think about the special quality that makes New Caledonia truly different from any other Pacific destination, it would have to be wilderness areas with easy and unrestricted access for large yachts.
The French hydrographic office has installed excellent navigational aids and created top-notch marine charts. New Caledonia also boasts the world's most sophisticated cruising guide: the Rocket Nautical Guide to New Caledonia. This interactive guide works on Windows or Mac computers and has high-resolution aerial and satellite images of every part of New Caledonia, with overlays of depths, navigational aids, GPS routes, surface and even underwater images. I have enjoyed using this encyclopedia of nautical information for years (it is updated regularly) and have never seen a guide like it for any other cruising area - except the Nautical Guide to Vanuatu produced by Rocket Guides. The combination of excellent navigational aids, charts and the cruising guide make it easy to plan itineraries and to cruise safely between more than 250 anchorages.
New Caledonia has taken a very proactive stance in protecting and managing its marine resources. A 1600km-long coral reef encircles the world's largest coral reef lagoon. The entire 24,000sq-km lagoon and barrier reef was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and is now is divided into management zones. Protection ranges from total exclusion in the Yves Merlet Reserve to exclusion from going ashore on some islands during the breeding season of endangered sea birds, to 32 marine reserves and parks where fishing or collecting any creatures is prohibited and visitors are required to obey regulations aimed at keeping these vibrantly alive ecosystems in their prime. New Caledonia has also set up regulations for yachts watching the whales so they don't disturb the creatures or run afoul of each other.
There are also some great wilderness areas on land. The southern part of Grande Terre has extensive parks and wilderness areas with crystal clear rivers and waterfalls, as well as marked walking and mountain bike trails that wind everywhere through exotic forests. Meanwhile, your yacht can be anchored in a totally protected deep lagoon with flat, calm water perfect for kayaking, jetskis, or water skiing. I don't know anywhere else in the world where you can do that, especially without worrying about security issues.
Superyachts will be pleased with the professional expertise and range of supplies and services in Noumea.
Superyachts [all of which will need to go to Noumea, the capital of new Caledonia, for clearance formalities] will be pleased with the professional expertise and range of supplies and services in Noumea. I don't speak French, so having a perfectly bilingual superyacht agent really helps on a day-to-day basis, making it easy to deal with a great variety of tasks. I think of Chloe Morin of Noumea Ocean Superyacht Services as my personal assistant - just mention a job and she gets it done. Normal tasks like bunkering are handled routinely, but I have seen her organise some pretty complicated repair jobs for visiting superyachts and, believe me, organising anything complicated in a French maritime community is like herding cats. But she gets everyone working together and the job gets done correctly and on schedule.
Noumea Ocean Superyacht Services works directly with my crewmembers. For example, Chloe makes it easy for our chef to stock the galley by arranging for food baskets of fresh, organically grown vegetables delivered from the grower right to our yacht. If the yacht needs something special, be it an oversized bolt or a case of premier French wine, Chloe will have it delivered to our yacht in record time.
So that's why I love New Caledonia for superyacht cruising; springtime in wilderness with magnificent beaches, diving, marine life, fishing, protected lagoon anchorages, easy navigation, close to civilised perks and professional services.
For Captain Palmer’s full account of New Caledonia and information on New Caledonia as a destination for owners and charter guests, visit TheSuperyachtOwner.com.