New Caledonia boasts world’s largest 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 (1600 species), sea turtles, and colorful coral (more than 350 species). It is also one of the very best destination for snorkeling with large marine creatures, such as dugongs (New Caledonia hosts the third largest population of dugong of the planet), 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 la Baie des Citrons, Anse Vata and Chateau Royal Beach, but the many islets scattered throughout the lagoon, less than a one-hour boat trip from the capital-city, are more preserved. L’île aux Canards (Duck Island), located only a 10-minutes 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 the New Caledonian marine biodiversity. Some local companies offer snorkeling day or half-day tours departing from Nouméa to îlot Signal (a marine preserve just 15km west from Nouméa), îlot Amédée (famous for its lighthouse and its beautiful reef, reachable in 40 minutes by boat), îlot Goéland (a protected area situated some 15km from Nouméa) and îlot Larégnère. Most of tours costs between 30 to 40 euro per person, including drinks and sometimes lunch on the islets.
The Loyalty Islands (Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa) and the Isle of Pines features 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 Oro Bay, home to an enchanting natural “swimming pool” 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 with beautiful coral, vibrant marine life, and crystal clear water. In Ouvéa, Southern Pleiades, well-known for its manta rays population, is considered as 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 world-class options.
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.
More than 200 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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