Several times a year our ship undertakes a voyage that is an “expedition” — visiting remote areas of the world that we explore by small (20 foot/6 meter) motorized inflatable boats (Zodiacs), without docking or tendering into large ports. This spring’s expedition is to Melanesia, the Pacific Islands north of Australia, west of Polynesia, and south of Micronesia New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Our trip began in Nouméa, on the island of Grande Terre, New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie), the southernmost nation in Melanesia. This was our last chance to dock (taking advantage of the opportunity to load on supplies and fuel). Rocky hillsides dominate Grand Terre, the largest of the five islands that comprise New Caledonia. It is home to capital city, Nouméa, which enjoys a sprawling harbor and ocean view. Native Kanaks along with Indonesian, Tahitian, Vietnamese and European settlers make up the island’s population. Our one day in town was on a Sunday when virtually everything is closed (tracing back to the French Catholic heritage on the island). Thus our photographs show few people and we couldn’t get inside popular museums, the cultural center, etc. On Monday, before our ship sailed and we began our journey through Melanesia, we spent the day on a chartered catamaran sailing to a nearby reef for snorkeling and lunch before sailing back to the harbor and heading back to the pier for the departure of our ship for Vanuatu.