New Caledonia, an archipelago situated in the southwest Pacific about 1500 kilometres east of Australia, has, for its size, one of the most diverse floras in the world. Over three thousand species have so far been described. It also possesses an abundance of unusual and again often endemic birds including one of the planet’s most distinctive species, the Kagu. Off the island’s stunning coastline are amazing coral reefs. Put all this together and you have an island paradise with a degree of uniqueness perhaps only surpassed by New Guinea and Madagascar.
More striking perhaps than the richness of the flora is the degree of endemism to be found here with around 80% of plant species found nowhere else on the planet. The reasons for both the high diversity and high endemism are complex however the isolated position and in particular the unusual and varied geology are major factors. Much the outcropping rock on Grande Terre, the main island, are ‘ultramafic’ with high levels of nickel, manganese, chrome and cobalt. Plant growth is difficult on such substrates and results in high levels of speciation, indeed each separate area of ultramafic outcropping seems to have its own species. We are visiting in November when some the showier flowering plants are at their best including striking Metrosideros. New Caledonia has a good number of ‘relict’ species of ancient lineage, some of the more primitive groups being Amborella and Zygogynum, and further botanical interest can be found in the assemblage of carnivorous and parasitic species. New Caledonia is the world centre of diversity for conifers with 43 species found on the island, much the highest number of species for such an area anywhere in the world, and all 43 species are endemic. A number of genera contain species of great interest for their strange morphology, these including some of the gymnosperms, but also Dracophyllum, Cocconerion and Balanophora.
A highlight of our visit will no doubt be an encounter with the extraordinary Kagu, a bird that looks like no other on the plant. Its soft grey plumage offset by strikingly red legs and barred wings, only visible when it opens them, it is only sometimes obvious that it is a kind of heron! Amongst a host of endemic birds are the gorgeous red and green Red-throated Parrotfinch, the red-headed New Caledonian Myzomela, the unique Crow Honeyeater and the elegant Barred Honeycreeper. There’s a range of Fantails, Trillers and Cuckooshrikes, and we’ll see the huge Goliath Imperial Pigeon, citrus-hued Cloven-feathered Dove and amazing Horned Parakeet. Along the coast we’ll find Beach Stone-Curlew and waders such as Grey-tailed Tattler and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Out to sea are White Terns, Fairy Terns, Silver Gulls, Red-footed Boobies, Frigatebirds and various Petrels. The butterfly fauna is not hugely diverse but does include some remarkably beautiful species such as the brilliant Papilio montrouzieri, a fabulous shimmering blue swallowtail. Delias ellipsis is named for the elliptical patterns of red, yellow, black and white on this stunning jezebel butterfly. We’ll also have optional snorkelling sessions available at some very fine reefs. The uniqueness of New Caledonia’s natural heritage is perhaps only now starting to reach a wider audience – it is one of the natural world’s best kept secrets.
Flora, Birds and Butterflies. Also optional snorkelling.
Kurt Vickery, Romain Barriere
Reasonably easy, covering up to 6 miles, usually less. Occasional steep sections.
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport (including one helicopter flight), meals and accommodation in New Caledonia. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature including insurance, are not included.
The minimum is 5 and the maximum is 14. Only one leader will accompany a group of 8 or less.
The first five nights are at the Hotel Le Lagon in New Caledonia’s capital Nouméa and we return to this hotel for the last night of the tour. This is very good quality hotel with great rooms, a swimming pool and an excellent restaurant. In the Grand Sud we’ve a night at Les Bois des Suds and two nights at Kanua Tera Ecolodge. After a night at the Auberge de Koghi we’ve a night at the Gîte Ouatchoués. Those on the extension will have two nights at the lovely Kuberka on the Isle de Pins. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK return flights are from London or Manchester via Dubai and Sydney to Nouméa. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* may be available.
*These routes may incur a supplement
Gorgeous! Around 26°C or 27°C maximum temperatures daily cooling off reasonably at night. However do expect a little rain at this season. Sea temperatures are equally idyllic!
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. Flower, bird and butterfly checklists are available.