What to pack for New Caledonia
Take the overwhelming feeling out of packing by starting with a few essential items for your trip to New Caledonia - lightweight, breathable clothing, swimwear, a backpack, and some sunscreen. This island country is pretty much exactly like every tropical destination you've ever been to so you already know it's going to be hot, that you're going to be spending as much time as you can in the water, and that you'll want to explore every inch of the island from rainforests to reef systems.
In case you need an initial helping hand, we've put together a list of the clothing items, the essential items, and the nice-to-have items to guide your packing. Remember, it's not the end of the world if you forget something - chances are you'll be able to pick it up at the airport or once you arrive at your accommodation in New Caledonia.
1. Light, breathable clothing
Packing clothes you can feel comfortable in even when it's hot and sunny outside is a must. Forget the nylon, polyester, and leather (basically anything that's going to stick to you) and opt for pants, dresses and shirts made from lightweight cotton or linen.
If your body's going to get hot in heavy clothing then your feet are going to get hot if you enclose them in heavy-duty, covered shoes. To avoid toe sweat (gross), make sure you pack a pair of sandals and wear them everywhere. New Caledonia's not a fancy place and most establishments have a casual dress code so wearing your sandals from the beach to the hotel restaurant isn't going to raise any eyebrows.
3. Comfortable walking shoes
While you might feel like wearing your sandals all the time, wearing them when going on a hiking adventure probably isn't a good idea so if you plan on spending a considerable amount of time trekking through the New Caledonian wilderness, we recommend you pack comfortable walking shoes that you've already broken in. No one wants a blister forming half an hour into a three-hour hike.
4. A hat
The weather in New Caledonia can reach heights of up to 35°C and that means the UV index can also max out on level 11. While the rest of your body should also be properly protected, people tend to forget about the head but packing a hat (and wearing it) should be at the top of your SunSmart priority list. But not just any old hat; one with neck flaps and a wide brim so you have all bases covered.
This one's a no-brainer. You can't be surrounded by sparkling turquoise water and not immediately want to swim in it so packing your favourite swimsuit is a must (if we were you, we'd be packing several swimsuits because you'll be wanting to go in multiple times a day).
6. Waterproof jacket
Packing a waterproof jacket might seem odd when New Caledonian weather is pretty good all year round but there can be the occasional storm or light shower, especially during the hot, humid season so it's always best to be prepared. A waterproof jacket can also come in handy if you're going on speedy boat rides or spending extended periods of time out on the water and don't want to get accidentally soaked.
7. Reusable drink bottle
Whether you plan on spending your days lying in the sun or exploring national parks, making sure you're staying hydrated is a must-do, especially when the weather's warm and the humidity is high. Keep the environment at the forefront of your mind and pack a reusable drink bottle with you to refill as you go. The water in New Caledonia is pretty safe to drink but if you'd rather not risk it, ask your leader where you might be able to get some filtered water.
The UV index is often high in New Caledonia (it usually sits around 8 or 9) thanks to its geographic location making it extremely easy to get sunburnt. So, to avoid turning into an overripe tomato and crying "ow" every time something even slightly touches your skin, make sure you pack some sunscreen and slather it on thick before stepping outside.
On first thought, sunglasses may seem like an accessory that should be on the 'nice-to-have' list but we're not exaggerating when we say that the water in New Caledonia sparkles. If you're not wearing sunglasses, there's a good chance you won't be able to see properly due to the glare of the sun when it hits the water's surface. This will also protect your eyes from the sun's UV rays.
10. Insect repellant
If you don't fancy becoming mosquito food, we suggest packing a heavy-duty insect repellant (and taking it with you everywhere). These pesky flying insects are out in full force during November-April but can still rear their beady little heads throughout the rest of the year as well. While New Caledonia is relatively free from infectious diseases, mosquitos are still known carriers of Malaria and dengue fever so it's best to come prepared.
11. Day bag/backpack
Packing a backpack with you is a must because how else do you plan on carrying your essential items with you when you're out and about? However, make sure the backpack or day bag you bring isn't super bulky or uncomfortable to carry once it's full because you'll just end up leaving stuff behind when you go out adventuring and that kind of defeats the purpose.
12. A camera
Yes, the camera quality on smartphones is pretty good these days but nothing beats setting up the perfect shot, getting the lighting just right, and enhancing those settings to look as if you've stumbled upon an otherworldly landscape everyone back home will be jealous of. While it's not an essential item (you can definitely still take quality pictures without one), bringing a camera with you will take your photos to the next level.
13. Snorkel gear
Expect to be doing a lot of snorkelling while you're in New Caledonia (the underwater landscapes are just as good as those found above the surface) and while snorkel gear can be rented from beachside establishments and hotels, the thought of having your mouth over a piece of plastic that thousands of other people have also had their mouths over might not sit well with you. If that's the case, make sure you bring your own.
14. First aid kit
While your tour leader will have all the basic medical equipment on hand should anyone need it, it can't hurt to be prepared for scrapes, bites, and bumps by packing a mini first aid kit. You won't need to bring much, just a couple of bandaids, some pain relief cream, and a tube of aloe vera or two.
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