Crossing the South of New Caledonia and its grandiose landscapes
For those who do not reside in New Caledonia, getting to the departure point of the Forgotten Coast outing will prove a beautiful experience.
After leaving Noumea in an Aventure Pulsion 4×4 with the kayaks on a trailer and driving along the coastline over about 10 km, you will set out across the wild south.
The red earth that is so characteristic of New Caledonia will highlight the kaleidoscope of colours of the lush tropical vegetation. You will cross several torrents and rivers that wind across grandiose landscapes to reach the Yaté Lake and enjoy a 10 km drive along its banks. The abundant vegetation that plunges without restraint into the water and the multitude of dead wood that emerge above the water surface confer a unique atmosphere to the place.
After a short pause, you will climb up a small pass to discover the amazing spectacle of the ocean and the Forgotten Coast. You will continue along a track until reaching a river, which is the departure and end point of your kayak outing.
Starting off at your own pace
Aventure Pulsion will take you to the river’s edge, where the track ends. You will load your kayak, taking care to distribute the load as evenly as possible, and head off on the river. After a few twists and turns, you will reach the lagoon.
If you choose to take your time and paddle at a leisurely pace on the first day, you will cover a distance of a dozen or so kilometres before stopping for the night.
The exploration of the Forgotten Coast is a leisurely kayak trip rather than a timed competition. There are lots of spots to discover and after completing the outing, you will regret not having been able to enjoy more of what nature had on offer. It may be easier for residents than for tourists to arrange for another outing!
You will quickly grasp the immensity of the lagoon that you are about to explore, paddling worriedly until the overwhelming feeling of extreme littleness when facing the elements passes. The animals that you will encounter along the way will help you forget the anxiety felt in the beginning. A pilot whale cruising a few hundreds metres away, a bird flying over the sea with lots of bonitos around or an osprey hunting for its prey will quickly put you in the mood.
You will then know that you have come to the right place.
A succession of grandiose, wild landscapes and a fantastic choice of bivouac spots
One can hardly be indifferent to the fascinating charm of the imposing mountain that towers over the lagoon throughout the journey. The multitude of small torrents running down its steep slopes all provide opportunities to stop and have a swim to freshen up before they flow into the lagoon. This is also an opportunity to replenish water.
You may choose to paddle along large bays such as Ouinné Bay, explore the capes, navigate some rivers upstream or save energy by cutting across the open sea. You will enjoy the unusual and unforgettable experience of kayaking above the coral beds and alongside the deep-sea fauna.
There are two spots that are a must for a bivouac. First, the Porc Epic spot is a small peninsula and its tip is covered with superb hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) trees. Its narrow white sand isthmus, a tiny neck of land between the wild scenery of two superb bays, is planted with coconut trees. This is an ideal place to pitch your tent. A freshwater spring flows at the foot of the mountain in the forest, about fifty metres from the seashore. You can wash yourself in a small river that runs into the adjacent bay, a few hundred metres from your bivouac. You will find all the dead wood and coconut fibre that you may need to light a fire and you can also fish for your food. The place is truly idyllic. From your tent or hammock that, of course, you would have installed by the water, it is most probable that you will be awakened at the false dawn by the sound jackfish chasing after their prey close to the shore. It would be a pity not to spend a couple of nights there to enjoy this magical setting. You can put your snorkelling equipment to good use and visit the coral boulders and underwater walls with an abundant fauna and flora a short distance from the beach. What an amazing spectacle!
For your next stop, you will feel that you were absolutely right decision in choosing Ményoro for a bivouac. This white sand islet in the open sea is tens of metres long. It is covered with coconut trees and is located near two large passes where the fauna abounds. As the day rises, you will witness the amazing spectacle of fish hunting other fish without interruption during two full hours all around the islet. With a little bit of luck and amidst this deep sea spectacle, you will see some dolphins entering the lagoon. Continuing the kayak experience, you will come across a dugong floating lazily on the surface of the water!
On the last day, you will enjoy navigating alongside Toupeti Island. Take an enchanting trip across the arm of the sea among the mangrove forest before navigating towards Port Bousquet. Besides reaching the end of your journey, you will discover other sea landscapes made of mangrove trees, islets, sandbanks and majestic bays.
A friendly relationship with the locals
The Forgotten Coast is barren with the exception of the final part of the trip, which is inhabited by the Borindi tribe. On the last day, if you choose to bivouac on the islets in open sea, you won’t see anyone except for a few women fishing for octopus on the reef at low tide. They still use ancestral fishing techniques and the size of the specimens caught is proof that the resource is not over-exploited. The octopuses are caught to meet the subsistence needs of the tribe and the best specimens are sold to restaurants in Noumea.
There are also some fishing camps that are occasionally inhabited along the Forgotten Coast. You may come across some small fishing boats and you can easily start a conversation with the fishermen and develop a friendly relationship with them. This may be an opportunity to learn more about the fishing techniques used and the fauna found in these waters.
You should normally face no difficulty if you set a bivouac in one of the areas recommended by Aventure Pulsion. The lands that you will cross are sometimes privately owned, namely those of the former mine of Montagnat, or belong (even if uninhabited) to local communities, and prior authorisation is required if you wish to camp there.
It is advised to keep in mind that the locals have a special relationship with nature, which differs from that of the majority of Western people. Besides, the social code of the Melanesian people applies and it is strongly recommended to show respect for these local customs. As a visitor, the local inhabitants that you will meet expect, as anywhere else New Caledonia, some consideration from your part and the respect of their traditions.
Some practical advice
Use a stable kayak and choose the proper length. If you are not an expert, it is better to opt for a sit-on-top that automatically drains and easily gets back afloat.
In the case of an individual kayak, use a 25-litre watertight container instead of a 50-litre one to store your equipment; this will reduce the dunnage. It makes a difference if you have a beam wind over several days while providing you with sufficient room for shelter and to store your tent, sleeping bag, stove, clothes, headlamp, etc. (raid version). Stick everything else to the bottom of the kayak. This will spare you much trouble if ever the kayak capsizes. Don’t bring along too much water as you will be able to replenish all along the way. You will find water by observing from afar the torrents that run down from the mountain. Add a water purification pill and wait for an hour before drinking. Don’t forget to bring a roll of reinforced duct tape so as to be able to fix any leaks and stick as much of the load as you can to the bottom. Some small roping or ‘sandow’ will come in handy to secure anything that is usually kept out of the container, namely your photo or video equipment.
Use a kayak equipped with a rudder blade. It will be useful when you are snapping some photos or shooting some video as the wind, current and swells will drift you towards landscapes that you did not initially intend to shoot if you stop paddling. Furthermore, if you have an Eskimo-type of sail and you are facing strong wind, you will find it extremely difficult to steer your kayak with a paddle. In the event that you need to use your sail, tie yourself to your kayak with some roping or a leash. If you happen to fall into the water with the sail up, your kayak may continue on its way and if, moreover, the sea is rough or there are swells, you will lose sight of your kayak and those accompanying you may also lose sight of you!
You may bring along some fishing equipment and attach a hand-line to the bow of your kayak. Before eating your catch, make sure that it is not toxic. There is a risk of ciguatera fish poisoning, so avoid having to address its undesirable effects in some inaccessible place.
You may require a container or a supple watertight bag for your photo equipment. Take at least one spare battery and some memory cards as there are innumerable photo opportunities!
Don’t forget your snorkelling equipment to enjoy the amazing underwater landscapes. Also bring a thin neoprene shorty suit, which will also come in handy in case of bad weather.