Located in the heart of the South Pacific, New Caledonia is blessed with the world’s largest lagoon, offering infinite snorkeling opportunities. Although you will probably start by snorkeling from the shore around Nouméa, you shouldn’t leave New Caledonia without having explored some of the islets and reefs scattered throughout the lagoon. From dugong to anemonefish, to sea turtles and amazing displays of coral all along the reefs, there is a vast array of marine life to expect just below the surface.
New Caledonia boasts a huge lagoon, circled by a 1600km-long coral reef, listed since 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the third most extensive reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the Belize Barrier Reef.
It hosts a high diversity of marine ecosystems, with reefs teeming with tropical fish. There are 1600 species, including anemonefish, angelfish and maori wrasse, green sea turtles, and more than 350 kinds of colorful coral.
It is also one of the very best destinations for snorkeling with large marine creatures, such as dugongs. New Caledonia hosts the third-largest population of dugongs on the planet. You will also see manta rays and sharks.
With a 24 000km² lagoon and a 3400km-long coastline, snorkeling can be done almost everywhere in New Caledonia, with thousands of potential snorkeling spots.
In Nouméa, free shore snorkeling is possible in Baie des Citrons and Chateau Royal Beach. The many islets scattered throughout the lagoon, less than a one-hour boat trip from the capital city, are more preserved.
Îlot Canard (Duck Island), located only a 10-minute water taxi ride from Anse Vata, is the most popular islet. It is equipped with an underwater trail, which is an original way to explore the spot and discover Caledonian marine life.
Not far from Îlot Canard, Îlot Maître is another popular islet in Noumea’s area. It is equipped with a hotel with a swimming pool and water bungalows overlooking the coral reef.
Nevertheless, if you have to choose only one islet to visit from Nouméa, we recommend the iconic Îlot Amédée. At the foot of its historic lighthouse, you’ll snorkel with many peaceful green sea turtles in a paradisiacal setting.
Some local companies offer snorkeling day or half-day tours departing from Nouméa to other islets, including Îlot Signal (a marine preserve just 15km west from Nouméa), Îlot Goéland (a protected area also some 15km from Nouméa), Îlot Redika and Îlot Larégnère.
Most tours costs between 30 to 50 euro per person, including drinks and sometimes lunch on the islets.
The Loyalty Islands, Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa, and the Isle of Pines feature some of New Caledonia’s most popular snorkeling spots. These dream islands, located off Grande Terre and accessible by boat or plane, are little pieces of paradise.
On the Isle of Pines, don’t miss La Piscine Naturelle in Oro Bay, a natural “aquarium” fringed with araucaria pine trees.
On the limestone island of Lifou, the best options for snorkeling are in Jinek Bay and at the foot of Jokin Cliffs. Both of these areas are with beautiful coral, vibrant marine life, and crystal clear water.
In Ouvéa, the Southern Pleiades, well-known for its manta rays population, is considered the best snorkeling spot.
Further north, Tibarama Island, off Poindimié, Hienga Island, a 15-minutes boat trip from Hienghène, and Ténia Islet in Boulouparis are all great options.
Check this video 👇👇👇 and dive into the world of our New Caledonia snorkeling adventures! Look at these huge sea turtles floating peacefully at the Pacific Ocean’s surface, mere feet from our faces! Filmed in Grande Terre, Lifou, Isle of Pines, Duck Island and Amédée Island. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned on each sequence.
Snorkeling is possible year-round in New Caledonia. However, the warmer season does occur from November until April and brings a greater chance of rain and wind. May through October is slightly cooler and drier than the rest of the year, although temperatures remain fairly warm.
Water temperatures are comfortable for snorkeling, ranging from an average of 74°F/23°C during austral winter to 82°F/28°C when the water is at its warmest in January and February. March through September is the manta rays season, with the best chance to spot these fascinating fish in New Caledonian waters.
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You can’t miss them at Ilot Amédée. Occasional sightings on other spots.
Abundant and easy to see at La Piscine Naturelle. Commonly spotted at Ilot Canard and Baie de Jinek, but localized.
Abundant and easy to see at La Piscine Naturelle. Also present in Baie de Kanumera, Ilot Canard and Ilot Amédée.
Can be seen throughout the archipelago, especially around the islets.
In large numbers at La Piscine Naturelle. Common on all reef spots.
On all spots.
Try your luck at Ilot Canard reef drop off.
Easy to spot at Ilot Canard, pretty rare elsewhere.
Preserved shallow coral gardens with reef fish
Level: Free shore access
Small reef and shallow seagrass meadows with sea turtles
Offshore islet with coral reefs, turtles, sharks and rays
Fringing reef with coral and reef fish
Shallow natural pool with coral, clams and reef fish
Small island edged by a coral reef with turtles, sharks, sea snakes and anemonefish
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