The Pacific island of New Caledonia is a nature lover’s paradise. Punching above its weight, the island lays claims to impressive natural features including the largest lagoon in the world, a unique blend of flora and fauna, and a 1800km-long (1118 mile) coral reef, second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
And yet, the island has much more to offer than mountain excursions and beach trips. Once a French colony and now with special French territorial status, the clash of Melanesian and French cultures is most visible to the south, in capital city Nouméa. Luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and plush boutiques bring a cosmopolitan quality whilst the presence of traditional Melanesian cuisine, dance and village culture heralds the islander’s strong sense of heritage.
This juxtaposition is not always harmonious however, and conflicts between France and New Caledonia sometimes flare up, reflecting their differing attitudes on self-government, French nuclear testing in the region and more. A referendum scheduled for 2014 may see New Caledonia finally gain its independence.