New Caledonia Birding Tours
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 310 miles (500 kilometers) southwest of Vanuatu, about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) east of Australia, and 775 miles (1,250 kilometers) north of New Zealand. New Caledonia consists of the main island of Grande Terre (where the capital city Noumea is located), along with the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep Archipelago, and the Isle of Pines. It is one of the best places to bird watch in Melanesia with some of the most sought-after birds in the world occurring.
Human presence in New Caledonia has been found to date back to 1600 BC to 500 AD and the Lapita period. The Lapita had influence over a large area of the Pacific after a wave of human expansion, ultimately thought to be from Taiwan, some 5,000 – 6,000 years ago. The first European to sight New Caledonia was British explorer Captain James Cook in 1774, he named it “New Caledonia” as it reminded him of Scotland (the old Latin name for Scotland, given by the Romans, was Caledonia). In 1853 France took formal possession of New Caledonia when it became a penal colony and in 1946 New Caledonia became an overseas territory.
Tropical New Caledonia, part of Zealandia, is of Gondwanan (super-continent) origin, along with nearby Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand, with which it shares examples of similar flora and fauna, such as the Araucaria coniferous trees, which are also found in southern South America. It is thought that New Caledonia broke off Australia approximately 66 million years ago. The main island of Grande Terre is divided by a central mountain range with the highest peaks being Mont Panié (5,344 feet/1,629 meters) in the north and Mont Humboldt (5,308 feet/1,618 meters) in the southeast. Lush, mainly wet, evergreen forest vegetation cloaks the east while savannahs and farmland plains, which are drier, occur in the west. Botanically, New Caledonia is very important, with species, genera, families, and orders endemic to the islands, such as Amorella – the world’s oldest living lineage of flowering plants occurring. Noumea sits on the edge of the New Caledonian Lagoon, one of the largest lagoons in the world, which is surrounded by the New Caledonian Barrier Reef.