5 Stunning Waterfalls in New Caledonia
Go beyond the dazzling waters and the wide array of lagoon activities, venture inland and you’ll learn that there is a lot, lot more to New Caledonia beyond its gorgeous beaches and delightful water world. A trip inland is as much a must as a leisurely day at the beach, what with the mind-blowing Heart of Voh beckoning visitors to take a helicopter ride over Kone or climb Mt. Kathepaik just to see its full beauty. There is, however, another island wonder that escapes most people who take a trip to New Caledonia: the waterfalls.
Lush green mountains rise in New Caledonia and a 1,500-metre mountain range boasting five peaks runs the length of the island. It’s no surprise then that a waterfall or two can be found hidden deep in the mountains’ tropical forests. For those who don’t mind getting off the beaten path, here are our picks for some of the best waterfalls in New Caledonia that are well worth your visit:
Madeleine Falls (Les Chutes de la Madeleine)
This waterfalls is a gorgeous lady! Located in the Plain of Lakes (Plaine des Lacs) near Yaté, a South Province commune in New Caledonia’s Grand Terre Island, Madeleine Falls is perhaps the most well-known New Caledonian waterfalls and is often included in most Grand Terre tours. You might think this is simply because of its proximity to the busy city of Noumea, but set eyes on Madeleine and you’ll realize that the main draw is its unpretentious beauty. At five metres tall, the wide block-type falls are not very high but take in the contrasting colours of the white cascading waters, the red land common in the far south and the green lush vegetation and you’ll get a striking overall picture. While swimming in the waters below the falls is not allowed, there are many decks and spots near the falls from which to capture incredible photographs.
Aside from Madeleine Falls, the Plain of Lakes also has several botanical trails perfect for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Noumea. Hiking is also popular as there are many trails that cater for beginners as well as avid hikers.
Tao Waterfall (Cascade de Tao)
Hienghène is not just a diving and snorkelling destination. Falling at a height of about 100 metres, Hienghène’s Tao Waterfall is easily the highest waterfall in all of New Caledonia as well as the most impressive, plunging in two dramatic leaps with several sloping tiers. The waterfall is located in Reserve du Mt. Panie in the North Province of Grand Terre and derives from a stream. If you’re coming from the south, look to the left after the ferry crossing from Ouaième and you’ll witness the Tao waterfall in all its natural glory. However, this sumptuous Hienghène waterfall is best accessed on foot. An hour’s walk through the region’s abundant vegetation will get you to the many natural water holes at the bottom of the rock face which are all perfect for a refreshing dip.
If you’re planning to hike your way to the Tao Waterfall, there are two conditions you must remember. First, you should “make the customary gesture” (faire la coutume) as you’ll be entering tribal lands. Exchange greetings and offer simple gifts such as money or a piece of fabric called le manou as a mark of respect. Second, do not take the trail if there have been heavy rains or bad weather is predicted as flash floods may occur.
Wadiana Fall (Cascade de Wadiana)
Popularly known as Goro Fall due to its proximity to Goro, a mining settlement in New Caledonia’s South Province, Wadiana Fall is an impressive 200-metre, multi-tiered cascade creating a delightful plunge pool ideal for swimming.
It is quite accessible and easy to find as the trail leading to it is just right off the road. A short rock scramble will bring you to by the rocky banks of the waterfall’s pool. The water at the swimming basin is clear and cool and lots of small fish are on the near side of the pool. The coastal reef and lagoon are visible when you look downstream, but if you’re the adventurous type, you might want to take the path to the top of the cascade for an incredible panoramic view of the falls and the surrounding landscape.
Deep in the heart of the Pothé tribal territory just 30 minutes from Bourail village, you’ll find the Ny Waterfall whose complete name means “the place from which the fish pause” since they are unable to make their way further upstream. The Ny Waterfall is a peaceful pocket of paradise surrounded by luscious vegetation. Putting your feet in the water and letting the tiny minnows come to you is a must! The waterfall is full of marine activity, with sizable eels and swarms of freshwater shrimp coming out of hiding when tasty treats are thrown into the water.
To those interested in the island’s colourful past, here’s something for you. Ancient rock carvings or petroglyphs hidden in the forest nearby can be accessed just a short walk from the falls!
Le Trou Feillet
Le Trou Feillet, or Feillet’s Hole, is perhaps the best picnic spot in Sarraméa. Although it might be difficult to properly consider this a waterfall, Le Trou Feuillet is a wonderful slice of tranquillity that would be an injustice to leave off this list! The rock pool is popular for bathing and is quite easy to access. The trail to the pool starts at the end of the road in the Sarraméa valley and there are signs for a five-minute walk that are easy to follow.
For the history buffs out there, Paul Feillet, for whom the falls are named, was the governor who enacted a strong colonization policy in New Caledonia from 1894 to 1902, and who started the active cultivation of the cherries from which the well-known “Leroy” coffee is produced (so well- known in fact that Winston Churchill was believed to have favoured it!). Governor Feillet loved this spot for a relaxing dip in the crystal-clear pool, and thus the locals named it after him.