The Coral Sea, from Australia to Vanuatu
The Coral Sea lies to the west of the Pacific Ocean, off the north-east coast of Australia, between Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. It is dotted with islands, some of which are uninhabited, and is home to the Great Barrier Reef marine belt: the largest ecosystem of coral reefs in the world, decorated with amazing underwater landscapes.
Spend a night in the ‘white sandy paradise’ of Whitsunday
The Whitsunday Islands lie off the coast of Queensland, Australia, about 50 kilometres from the small seaside town of Airlie Beach. Close to the Great Barrier Reef, these 74 islands feature crystal-clear waters, secluded beaches and hidden bays. The white sapphire of the archipelago is Whitsunday Island with its idyllic Whitehaven Beach. This long strip of silica sand bordered by a tropical forest is indisputably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It might be a bit cliché, but Hill Inlet is well worth a visit. From there, you can admire the 7 kilometres of Whitehaven Beach that stretch forth from its lookouts, joining an estuary whose shades of blue and green change with the tides. Prolong this waking dream by camping overnight. Obtain a permit from Whitsunday Islands National Park and wait for the day’s visitors to return to their boats, leaving you alone, or almost alone, on this little slice of paradise lost. An exceptional experience!
Fly over the heart of the Great Barrier Reef at Hardy Reef
Visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 2,300 km over an area of nearly 350,000 km2 off the north-east coast of Australia, making it the largest coral reef system in the world. This extraordinary habitat is home to some 400 species of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of molluscs and 240 species of birds. This priceless natural wonder has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. Come and claim a front-row seat for this unique and unforgettable experience on the Reefworld pontoon, moored on the edge of Hardy Reef in perfectly preserved shallow waters. It is the perfect place to view this exceptional ecosystem. Choose to explore it by snorkelling, scuba diving or in a semi-submersible submarine. The platform also has an underwater viewing chamber. And a handful of Reefsleepers can even spend a night under the stars on the pontoon. Alternatively, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view during a panoramic helicopter flight over the famous Heart Reef.
Swim in the natural pool at Oro Bay on the Île des Pins
Welcome to the Île des Pins. Almost on the Tropic of Capricorn, to the south of Grande Terre of New Caledonia, the Île des Pins owes its name to Admiral James Cook, who marvelled at the abundance of the majestic New Caledonia pines when he explored the island for the first time in 1774. Now it’s your turn to uncover its treasures aboard an outrigger canoe in Upi Bay. Once inland, you can climb the Pic N’Ga or travel to the Cave of Queen Hortense, which is pierced with tree roots seeking water. Or walk along the trail beside a discreet sandy river to reach the legendary natural pool in Oro Bay, where thousands of multicoloured fish frolic in the dazzlingly clear waters of this lagoon carved from coral. A paradisiacal experience! You can also take a small plane to the Île des Pins from Nouméa, flying over the breathtaking landscapes of the Great South Lagoon, one of six lagoons named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Admire Solomonic art on the island of Santa Ana
Santa Ana, also known as Owaraha, is a small coral island in the Solomon Islands, in Melanesia, east of the island of San Cristobal (also known as Makira). Populated by fishermen and horticulturalists, welcoming Santa Ana is known principally for its sculptural woodwork: understated and elegant ceremonial bowls, paddles, slender clubs and figureheads for war canoes made of black wood, delicately decorated with white patterns and polished shell, pyrite, mother-of-pearl, clamshell, tortoiseshell and more. These objects represent relationships between people, the living and the dead, and other supernatural entities. It is a traditional art that reflects valuable know-how, as does the music, singing and dancing that punctuate the daily life of this Melanesian community during ritual ceremonies, special occasions or simply as a way to welcome visitors.
Listen to the rivers sing in Vanuatu
Head north from New Caledonia to visit Vanuatu, made up of around 83 beautiful islands. Espiritu Santo, or Santo to those who know it best, is the largest island in the group and probably one of the most beautiful. Featuring volcanic hills, fine sandy beaches, lagoons with turquoise waters and its famous blue holes, it is impossible to resist the natural beauty of its landscapes. The west of the island remains very wild, bristling with jagged mountains, while the east and south offer vast plains suitable for farming and dotted with small, isolated villages. Enjoy the opportunity to meet the people who live a quiet and reserved life here, but who are always very welcoming. Take advantage of your time in Santo to enjoy a captivating experience: Women’s Water Music. The women of Vanuatu make rivers sing by stirring, hitting and stroking the water with their hands and arms! A unique art that is passed down from mother to daughter…
Idyllic islands with preserved natural landscapes, carefully protected coral reefs, lagoons with turquoise waters, welcoming locals, and more: discover these distant lands and their natural splendours on a trip to the Coral Sea. Meet the inhabitants, who are the heirs to a range of authentic traditions.
Photos credits : ©iStock
PONANT takes you there
Sail to the most beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean