Noumea Day Tours, New Caledonia

Before leaving for the cruise I did some research into what sort of a tour we could do when in Noumea.  I wasn’t overwhelmed by the choices offered by the cruise ship.  There was one we would have liked to have done to Amedee Island where we could view the lighthouse and go snorkelling but the ship was charging US$195.00/person so as this was almost AUS$1,000 it was totally out of the question.  

The welcome the locals gave us as we arrived in Noumea

The welcome the locals gave us as we arrived in Noumea – lots of singing and dancing in traditional costumes.

On Trip Advisor I noticed a lot of tourists were singing the praises of Alfred and Genevieve Nauka who run a business called GateAway Tours and Transfers.  They offer to show you the ‘real’ Noumea and their prices are extremely reasonable.

View of Noumea as a cyclone arrives

View of Noumea as a cyclone arrives.  The ship is in the distance.

Alfred is from Vanuatu and his wife is from Indonesia (but had been living in Noumea), and somehow they ended up meeting in Sydney.  Alfred followed Genevieve back to Noumea where they married and are now raising two children and running their own business.

View from a lookout

Escapade Island out in the distance

They had a tour to Escapade Island where you can snorkel and usually there are plenty of turtles in the water to swim with and apparently, the best snorkelling in Noumea is off Escapade Island.  Including transfers and lunch, the price of this tour was AUS$100/person (approximately) or 8,000CFP and 5,000CFP for Alfie.  A much better deal than what was being offered on the Oosterdam and apparently, a better island to visit.

A statue of the chief

A statue of the chief

However, when we met Alfred as we came off the ship, he sadly had to inform us that due to a pending cyclone both Escapade and Amedee Islands were being evacuated and no tour operator was allowed to take anyone to either island.  And I was all dressed for a day of snorkelling with nothing on except a swimsuit and a throw-over.

He has a few muscles

He has a few muscles

Never mind!  Alfred said that instead, he could take us on a tour of the city so we climbed into his mini-van along with all the others who had hoped to spend the day swimming with turtles.

The tour

The tour of the village

As the mini-bus hurtled along Noumea’s main road I have to say, the sight of the city completely underwhelmed me.  Maybe it was the cooler weather and the overcast skies but this city is in the South Pacific yet it doesn’t have the islander charm of the places we visited in Vanuatu, Fiji or even the smaller islands in New Caledonia.

The residence

The open-fire cooking area

Noumea appears to be very much a city with the very rich and the extremely poor all segregated into different areas, with the Kanuk’s (Indigenous people) squatting wherever they like, the wealthy living behind gated communities, the descendants of the French convicts having their own areas (after the French ceased convict operations they offered all remaining convicts either free passage back to France or vast tracks of land in Noumea.  Those who opted to stay now have descendants who have become wealthy from the land) and then there are a lot of homeless.  The population of the city is around 120,000 and Alfred said crime is quite a problem.  Crime in the other South Pacific places we visited was not an issue at all.

Inside the home of the

The residence

The first place Alfred took us to was a small Kanuk village in the middle of the city that was established just a few years ago.  It is the site where the Kanuks used to live but when the French arrived they removed them from the area.  Around five years ago the Government allowed a small tribute to the Kanuks to be erected and one person lives there.  It is a tourism site where there is no entry fee but donations are appreciated.

Walking around the village

It’s only a small village but it’s right in the centre of the city

As we walked around this rather small tribute in the middle of the city that once belonged to the Kanuk people, we spotted a marijuana plant.  Alfie asked Alfred if that was legal.  ‘No, it’s not’, he casually said.

‘Oh’, we said.

‘But the police aren’t allowed to come in here.  This is Kanuk land’, said Alfred.

A 'herb' garden

A ‘herb’ garden

The one person that lives there lives in a rather small thatched hut that didn’t look too sturdy.  I did wonder how he might survive the coming cyclone.

Very fresh produce at the market

Very fresh produce at the market

Alfred then took us to the local market where we saw lots of arts and crafts with beautiful jewellery and lots of souvenirs.  We wandered through to the fruit and vegetable market and bought the best pineapples I’ve ever eaten.  The vendor cut them up for us and unlike the Australian pineapples that are large, green on the outside with bleached fruit on the inside, dry, lacking in any juice or flavour and full of acidity, these pineapples were small, golden, soft, sweet beyond belief with no acidity, so much juice it ran up our arms and the core was so soft you could eat that as well.

Everywhere you go, there are baguettes

Everywhere you go, there are baguettes

The pineapples weren’t cheap though however New Caledonia isn’t known for being an affordable country.  We paid around AUS$12.00 for two very small pineapples.

We ran back to the bus and were taken to a few lookouts that gave us big views of the city but to me, Noumea just isn’t a pretty city and for anyone expecting a South-Pacific experience, this city doesn’t seem very South-Pacific at all.  Rather than being a home of the South-Pacific people, this is very much a city (a small one) where the South-Pacific lifestyle has been eroded for more of a Western lifestyle that seems to have left the Kanuks scrambling for their place in the new Noumea.   The residents speak French and English is not as widely spoken here as it is on the other islands.

The country survives on mining nickel and this is what keeps the economy going apart from the importance of tourism.  I thought Australia would bring in the most tourists but our population can’t compete with the numbers in Japan and so with three direct flights from Japan every week, Japan bring the most tourists to Noumea.

Alfred then took us to a patisserie that is well known for having very good quality French bread and pastries.  We had some baguettes that were so fresh and amazing and everyone said it was the best bread they had ever eaten and I would have loved an éclair but earlier in the day, thinking I was going snorkelling, I’d had too much breakfast.  Carl managed to enjoy a ham and salad baguette for around AUS$8.00.

A tiny part of the selection at the patisserie

A tiny part of the selection at the patisserie

Alfred was very aware of prices and advised us to not buy drinks from one particular store but instead visit the super-marche where we would pay a lot less etc.

The land beside the milkshake business.  Lots of chickens.

The land beside the milkshake business. Lots of free-range chickens.

We then drove to a milk bar that is famous in Noumea for its milk shakes.  The owner doesn’t speak any English so I couldn’t work out the story but he either owns a dairy farm and brings the milk directly to his shop or someone else owns the dairy and delivers the milk to his business.  Either way, the milkshakes are the best you’ll ever taste.

The milkshake shop

The milkshake shop

No artificial syrups are used; instead, when you order your milkshake it has real fruit in it.  We saw a farmer deliver his passionfruit straight from being picked off the vine to the shop.  I can highly recommend a visit and my two favourite varieties were coconut and mango.

The milkshake man in action

The milkshake man in action

After the milkshakes, Alfred took us to the Church of the Miracles, a Catholic church built by French convicts in around 1870.  Today the church is still in use and the priest lives in a house along with the headmaster of the school that’s beside the church, and there’s a nunnery where the very elderly nuns live.  (For obvious reasons the nuns are elderly.  Alfred told us that today the young French girls ‘worship’ at the ‘doof-doof clubs’).

The 'Church of the Miracles'.  Priest's residence is behind the church.  He shares it with the headmaster of the school.

The ‘Church of the Miracles’. Priest’s residence is behind the church. He shares it with the headmaster of the school.

He told us to go inside and get our miracle.

View from the gallery of the 'Church of the Miracles'

View from the gallery of the ‘Church of the Miracles’

Next to the church was a mango tree.  We picked and ate the mangoes and they tasted so much better than the mangoes in Sydney.

Next to the church was a mango tree. We picked and ate the mangoes and they tasted so much better than the mangoes in Sydney.

At the beginning of our tour we drove past Lemon Bay (or Baie des Citron) and it looked very lovely.  The road runs along the length of the bay that’s very picturesque, sheltered and calm and across the road there are some very smart looking shops, cafes and restaurants.  At the beach you can swim out to wooden pontoons then dive into the water.  After our tour with Alfred he dropped us back to Lemon Bay where I was finally able to use that swimsuit I’d been wearing all day.  The water is more refreshing than it was in Fiji.  More like 25C rather than the 30C it seemed to be in Fiji.  Alfie and I swam out to the pontoon and jumped off it a few times.  He tried to make friends with the local kids in the water but while very friendly, they all said to him, ‘No English’.  

Out on a pontoon at Lemon Bay

Out on a pontoon at Lemon Bay

Across the road we found Amorino Gelato Al Naturale that is an international business started by two childhood friends in Paris.  Arabella said the store at Lemon Bay was run by ‘the best-looking man I’ve ever seen’.  Sorry there isn’t an eye-candy image for you.  You queue up and pay and then you order.  It’s amazing gelato and he had some interesting flavours like frangipani but we went for fairly tame flavours like mango, coconut and raspberry.

The gelato store is at Lemon Bay and part of a beautiful strip of restaurants, cafes and shops

The gelato store is at Lemon Bay and part of a beautiful strip of restaurants, cafes and shops

If you are visiting Noumea and wanting to tour the Island, I would highly recommend contacting Alfred from GateAway Tours.  He is reliable, affordable, honest, full of interesting facts, has a great sense of humour and never stops laughing.

The seating area for the gelato store

The seating area for the gelato store

It was disappointing to have to leave Noumea without visiting Escapade Island but I said to Alfred, ‘Next time you know we’re coming, go up to the Church of Miracles and pray there won’t be a cyclone’.

Making a decision took some time

Making a decision took some time

Something to see next time for sure.

Arabella's selection

Arabella’s selection

GateAway Tours and Transfers

Email:  gateawaytoursnc@gmail.com

Facebook:  noumeashoretours gateway tours

If you liked this post, you’re welcome to share it!

 

 

Comments

  1. I find that it is often the smaller, local tour operators who can show the reality of places we visit. It’s a shame you missed out on your snorkelling, but it sounds as if you’ve made a new friend!

  2. It’s all a matter of timing and you can’t predict what the weather will bring. It still sounds like a great visit to the island and Alfred treated you well.

  3. That produce looks wonderful (well, the non-‘herb’ parts!) and it looks like you made the right choice to skip exorbitantly priced snorkeling for a local view.

  4. A very interesting insight into the city of Noumea, I had no idea it would be like that but that’s colonisation for you, especially when there is mineral wealth involved. So glad you managed to get a swim in before heading back to the ship and sounds like you chose the right tour.

  5. Always a fan of real tours. You get a more authentic experience.

  6. FABULOUS photos.
    The produce looks deLISH.
    The ice-cream. OMGosh.
    It’s all about the food))!!
    Love the church. Love what the man said to you: “””He told us to go inside and get our miracle~~~~

    Xxxxx

  7. Oh, I love the little chief is cute!! The fresh produce looks AMAZING!! MMMmmm, I can imagine sinking my teeth into a fresh baguette. So yummy! your photos are gorgeous, as always!! xo

  8. I love seeing these by-ways with you, Charlie. And the over-the-top statue of the chief just made my day.

  9. I just love the way you are finding all of the lesser traveled spots at the places the ship goes to. More interesting sights and definitely more interesting people. We’ve done that in the Bahamas when we stop there on the ship. A much better way and you are a pro at it.

  10. Wherever there was French colonisation of any sort, there you will find the best pastries and bread! Great photos of some great areas, and great information also. It’s always good to know some local businesses that are more affordable.

  11. Thanks for your honest points of view Charlie, I’d much rather know exactly what to expect than to be disappointed on arrival. I’m glad you still managed to have a nice day out with such a fun tour guide, even if you didn’t get in any snorkeling.
    I so would have picked the frangipane flavour gelato, and although a photo of the gelato was interesting I would have preferred one of the eye candy instead thankyou :) xox

  12. So sorry that the weather messed up your plans…darn those cyclones! I’m glad you found something to keep you busy…and some nice treats along the way! xo

  13. New Caledonia is such a magical place, by the looks of your photo, this is so awesome!
    Definitely on my places to visit :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  14. Sad that you didn’t get to snorkel but that was a lovely make-up tour. Another place I need to visit!

  15. My sister went to Noumea back in the 70s sometime and loved it! Looks like you and the family had an amazing holiday! Good one!

  16. So sorry that Mother Nature interrupted a swim with turtles! That would have been a wonderful experience, but I have a strong sense you will enjoy many future cruises. Perhaps that experience will be available. Marijuana to gelato and milk shakes! Something for everyone!

  17. I love the sound of the food there! So fresh and natural. And yes a good pineapple is a thing of wonder. Have you been to Thailand? Their pineapple is amazing!

  18. Despite not being able to snorkel, it sounds like a fascinating tour. It’s great to get a look at a place with the locals. GG

  19. How annoying Charlie, but lucky that cyclone didnt turn up. Its a bit of a surprise when you get to some of the south pacific towns , they just aren’t what you’d expect.

  20. Your vacation is looking quite fabulous!!! I love the South Pacific (and gelato!). :)

  21. Just went through all of the vacation posts. What a great trip! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  22. This post offers a totally different peek at island life which I found particularly interesting. Perhaps it’s because this seemed more “real” than the tourist version of life on the other islands.

  23. You can never predict what the weather will do. It seems as though you still had a very good visit.

  24. what a great adventure, i love the tour.

  25. Another wonderful day-trip. Love your caption on the “herb garden” pic, that made me chuckle :D.

  26. “…the ship was charging US$195.00/person so as this was almost AUS$1,000 it was totally out of the question”

    Ummm try $225AUD at the most. Never has the Australian dollar been 19c to the US dollar.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself all he same :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Alfred dropped us back to the beautiful Baie Des Citrons (Lemon Bay) we certainly didn’t need lunch […]

Speak Your Mind

*