Snakes in the Pacific Islands - SssssssssSpecifically Sea Snakes

Sea Snakes - Are you a Lover or a Hater?

Apparently a third of us have a fear of snakes (thanks, Wikipedia) – actually I thought it would have been more!

My fear of snakes is genuine (albeit unfounded), partly I think because I grew up in New Zealand where there is not a snake to be found.

 

 

Ophidiophobia

Ophiophobia

Fear of Snakes

 

 

 

 

And we really don’t expect a snake to be there swimming next to us on a tropical reef in the South Pacific Islands, do we????

Since Sea Snakes seem to be so prolific in one of our favourite holiday destinations (New Caledonia), we decided we should learn a bit about them.

Nature Lesson – Sea Snakes 101:

The Sea Snakes of the South Pacific that we are familiar with are the banded black & silver type.

Banded Sea Krait in Noumea

Snake or Krait: what’s the difference?

A Sea Snake is purely aquatic – it doesn’t leave the water and it bears live young.

A Sea Krait is our black & white buddy – they are amphibious which means they spend some time in the water and some time on land.  They also lay eggs.

(So I’m scared of a snake, but it’s actually a Krait)

Scientific Name:               Laticauda Colubrina

AKA:  

  • Banded Sea Snake
  • Banded Sea Krait
  • Colubrine Sea Snake
  • Amphibious Sea Snake
  • Yellow Lipped Sea Krait
  • Tricot Raye

I love the French name, Tricot Raye – translated it means something like “striped t-shirt” – just like the stereotypical French-man in his striped shirt!

The Yellow-Lipped describes the fact that this banded snake has a bright yellow nose, but you may not have noticed it before because you were too busy looking at its long sinuous body!  That body is long and thin with the men averaging 90cm long and the ladies 1.4m long.

Why are they hanging out where we want to swim and sunbake?

The Tricot Raye lives in warm tropical waters (the sort we like to holiday in) and are very common in the Pacific Islands.

They are also home-bodies – they return to their place of birth to mate so you can see why particular islands appear over-run (hello Amedee Island off Noumea)!

They hunt in the water – their main food is eels, but they also hunt small fish, crabs & squid that all live in the shallow waters of coral reefs. So that is where you will find them too (just where you like to snorkel).

Once a sea krait has eaten it needs to return to land to digest its food. It can’t swim very well after a meal (just like us) so it needs to be close to a beach where it can let lunch go down (just where you also like to lay your beach towel)!

https://youtu.be/8DaC3vprCrI

Aren’t Sea Kraits Dangerous and Poisonous?

Like most things in nature, the sea krait is just going about its business.

Eat, Sleep and Mate…. now you wish you were a Tricot Raye too!

Like most snakes, they are actually quite shy and non-aggressive and will usually avoid people.

If they are not curled up trying to digest their dinner, they will invariably slither away when approached on land.

They may be less docile during the mating season (September to December).  They will come to land to mate and lay eggs so be more aware during this time to just leave them alone. You wouldn't want a crowd watching when you mate or give birth, would you!

However, the Sea Krait is Venomous, and highly so with a neurotoxin up to 10 times stronger than Rattlesnake Venom which quickly paralyses their prey so that they can eat it.

They use their venom by biting their prey when hunting for food.

**Just remember you are not their prey so they do not intend to bite you**

The only other reason they would try to bite is if they feel threatened, so don't corner or antagonise him.  Common sense, right?

It is also true that the Sea Krait has a very small mouth and short fangs, so it would be difficult for one to actually bite you even if it tried (I don’t recommend you trying this out though).

A New Understanding of Sea Snakes.

I feel like I know Tricot Raye a little better now.

If you have been lucky enough to watch them in the wild you will agree that they are a stunning-looking animal, and perfectly adapted to their lives on the coral reefs & coastal islands that we also love.

So when you visit their territory, show them some respect. Admire them from afar and then just leave them to do their thing.

Don’t let an unfounded fear stop you from enjoying some of the most incredible destinations on the planet.  I’m not going to!

Nature Quote Aristotle

Where is Noumea? A Guide For Cruise Passengers.

Cruising to the South Pacific from Australia? 

Chances are you will be stopping in Noumea – it is one of the most popular Ports of Call for ships cruising from Brisbane and Sydney.  But where is Noumea?

Maybe you have travelled to Noumea before without really knowing where you were, or maybe you are a first-time cruiser who wants to check out the destination before you travel….

Following on from last week , I have put together some real-world information to help you work out where in the world you are going!

Where in the World are we?

Noumea is the Capital city of New Caledonia – New Caledonia being a French-ruled group of islands lying in the Pacific Ocean about 1200kms east of Australia.

map of where is noumea

Did you know that New Caledonia was named by Captain James Cook when he sighted it in 1774 – it reminded him of Scotland, hence the name.

 

Noumea can be found on the Southern tip of the largest island of the group – Grand Terre (“the Mainland”).

Grande Terre is a long thin island 350km from North to South and between 50-70kms wide with a large mountain range running its entire length.

 

grand terre new caledonia

The total population of New Caledonia is just over 270,000 people, with close to 100,000 of those living in central Noumea.

 

Getting to Noumea:

Flight time from Brisbane is 2 hours and from Sydney is 3 hours.  You will land at the Tontouta International Airport which is a 45min drive from the Noumea City Centre.

Cruising from Brisbane you are one sea day away, and from Sydney 2 sea days away from Noumea.

If Noumea is on your cruise schedule you are almost guaranteed to arrive there (unlike some other Ports that can be hit & miss) because of the protected location.

 

Arrival by Cruise Ship:

Your cruise ship will arrive into the protected deep-water harbour that is right on the doorstep of the Noumea City Centre.

There are two different berths that the Cruise ships may use –

1: Right in front of the Cruise Ship terminal - here you can just walk off the ship and begin your adventures.

2: Just across the bay at the Container Port - here a bus will take you the few minutes across to the Cruise Terminal.  You are not allowed to walk from the Container Port, you must use the bus.  The buses run constantly through the day, so you can take a bus back to the ship whenever you like.

 

ship docking map noumea

You should think of visiting Noumea the same as visiting a city in Australia; let’s use Brisbane as an example:

Noumea the city is made up of the city centre (just like inner-city Brisbane) and then surrounding suburbs (or districts) which spread out from the city (say Mt Gravatt, Chermside). Further afield you will still be on the main island but travelling further distances to new districts (say the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast).

 

So Welcome to Noumea!  What now? 

Many people say, “Don’t get off the Ship”!

I say, “Don’t be stupid”!

Of course you want to get off the ship!

Get out and experience the France of the South Pacific

noumea church

Just please don’t walk into the city centre and say you’ve seen it all and you hate it!

To get the most out of your visit to Noumea you need to do more than walk into the city!

We understand when you visit by cruise ship you only have ONE DAY to experience the place,  so geographically there is a limit to how far you can go.

Luckily Noumea packs plenty of variety and beauty into a small area!

For example, the lovely beaches of Lemon Bay and Anse Vata are only a 15 minute bus ride away.

**TIP**

Do yourself a favour and do some research before you arrive in Noumea.

Better still, keep following our Blog and we will share all our knowledge with you!

 

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https://www.gobysea.com.au/contact-us/

 

Tips to Help you Understand Noumea before you Travel

Cruise passengers will be familiar with Noumea as it is one of the most common Ports of Call on a Cruise to the South Pacific.

You might think you know Noumea… But do you understand Noumea?

Learn a little about Noumea before you travel there – some local knowledge is guaranteed to make your day more successful!

 bonjour speech bubble

Noumea is governed by the French so expect a little bit of France on your visit!

This means the main language spoken is French!

This means they drive on the right-hand side of the road!

This means they often close their businesses in the middle of the day, and that they don’t open on Sunday or Monday!

This means people carry Baguettes around the streets and the Pastries are to die-for!

This means that their currency is FRANCS – (French Pacific Francs or XPF).

This means you might be expecting the French reputation for being rude or arrogant…

Embrace these differences, don’t let the fear of the unknown put you off experiencing something unique in the South Pacific!

quote on understanding noumea 

The official language is French, so people who live here speak French, and some will also speak English. 

Begin each contact with a friendly “Bonjour” and then wait until you have had a “Bonjour” in return before you continue. You will be amazed how much it helps! 

That frosty French attitude softens swiftly when they see that you are respecting their culture and language.  No, you don’t need to be able to speak French to get by for a day in Noumea, just be open to using a couple of words!

Check out this blog post to help you with some useful words: 

https://www.gobysea.com.au/learn-some-lingo-common-words-in-vanuatu-and-new-caledonia/

Be mindful that English will be a second language for most of the people of Noumea, so make sure you ask the person if they speak English before you begin!  Don’t assume that locals are rude – to you they may appear that way as they will be unsure about you and not confident they can communicate with you!

A little bit of respect and a genuine smile go a long way to having a good time in a foreign country!

 

Unlike many ports where AUD is readily accepted, the correct currency tends to be preferred in Noumea – that is XPF.  So start your day right and exchange a small amount of money to XPF to make your transactions much easier!

There is a money exchange desk inside the Cruise Terminal Building (you must have photo ID to exchange money), or walk directly over the road to the “Casino” Supermarket (you can’t miss it) and there is an ATM or a money-exchange machine you can use.  For the money exchange machine you can just feed in an Australian note and out comes XPF.

Use some of that XPF to buy yourself a baguette and a French pastry – nothing makes you blend in more than strolling around with a baguette under your arm!  Oh and they are Sooooooo Good.

noumea baguettenoumea pastries

 

Unlike Port Vila, you will not find taxi’s waiting to whisk you away from the Cruise Terminal.  Don’t expect this when you arrive, they just won’t be there.

While you are out and about, don’t forget that cars will be driving on the opposite (right) side of the road than you are used to.  Double check before you cross a street!  The roads around the terminal & city are busy – don’t be put off walking around but be careful.

Accept that if you are visiting on a Sunday or Monday you may find some businesses closed.  This is just part of the culture of the country.  These days, with tourism so popular more and more places are staying open. Not in the centre of the city though – it is not a tourist area so don’t expect tourist hours!  The tourist areas of Anse Vata and Lemon Bay will be business as usual on a Sunday/Monday for your enjoyment, so head there instead of town – it’s much prettier anyway (more on these areas later in a separate post).

Finally, don’t expect a European style city….  Noumea may be a little piece of France in the South Pacific, but the City Centre is a true South Pacific town – think small, a little rough around the edges and limited shopping options compared to what we are used to in Western countries.  My suggestion would be don’t come to Noumea expecting big city shopping!

 

I hope these little tips will help you to enjoy your day in Noumea.

Next week, the Noumea story continues….

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Falling in Love with Paradise: Isle of Pines

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The finest whitest sand, the clearest sparkling waters, the greenest sentinel pines outlined against the bluest sky – Isle of Pines is truly a paradise!

Here we are, lounging on the shore of Kuto Bay – a warm gentle breeze is refreshing, and the water changes colour through every hue of blue you can imagine as we sit and contemplate how we can stow away on one of those boats at anchor. 

How long do these boats stay?  Who knows, except that once you have arrived you would need to have a very good reason to leave.

As we sat on the beach we spotted a huge sea turtle so close to the shore – we watched him swim amongst the anchored boats, seemingly unbothered by the human occupation of his domain.

The Bay curves seductively, and invites a slow meander from one end to the other – toes in the silky soft sand and crystal clear water.  There is no swell to speak of, just the very gentle lapping of the water and the occasional call of a small bird in the trees lining the shore.

Later as the sun sets, we get to experience the Bay in a whole new light – the stunning transformation as the golden orb of the sun rapidly drops into the ocean, and finally the whole horizon bathed in the most wonderful orange.

As a cruise ship passenger who has been lucky enough to visit the Isle of Pines you probably know and love Kuto Bay as we do. 

Arriving by ship you can be forgiven for discovering the Bay of Kuto and not wanting to go any further!  The water captivates the senses, and the subtle shift in clouds or breeze creates an ever-changing palette of blues that you just can’t get enough of.

Staying over on the island, we were able to see more of the Isle of Pines than you usually would on a one day cruise stop and we can verify that the whole island truly is “the island closest to Paradise”.

At 15km x 13km – a very small island, it really packs it in!  The island stays true to its natural beauty throughout; there are no obvious signs of human over-development or interference.  So if you want to experience nature at its finest you are in the right place!

From the sublime blues of the bays to the vibrant greens of the inland grottos and the outstanding panorama from the highest peak you can’t help but keep clicking away on the camera.  Every time you think you have the perfect shot you are somehow drawn to shoot again in an effort to capture the true essence of the place. No matter how hard we tried, or how many shots we took we don’t think we could ever truly do the Isle of Pines justice on camera.

In the 1800’s the Isle of Pines was used as a convict settlement for French Prisoners.  Today it is home to around 2000 mainly local people (the Kunie) who are grouped into a number of tribes living across the island.  French is the official language, and English is not normally spoken outside of tourist hotels. You will however receive a friendly “Bonjour” wherever you go.

Seafood is a specialty across the island for obvious reasons, but trying the less standard (but quite famous) Isle of Pines Snails is a delight to the senses and a not to be missed experience unique to the Isle.

 

There are 3 or 4 main roads that criss-cross the island and you can drive from one end to the other in just over half an hour.

On our first day on the Isle of Pines we were content to roam along the shore of Kuto & Kanumera Bays, both different but equally spectacular. Once we were able to drag ourselves away from the beach we tackled the highest peak (Pic N’Ga 262m) to enjoy a stunning birds-eye perspective.

The next day we spent a full day with a hire car exploring the rest of the island: Piscine Naturelle (the clearest water you will ever see), Oro Bay (with a walk through a river to reach it), the Grotto de Hortense (stunning ferny grove & limestone cave) the Bay of Crabs (stark & moon-like but aptly named), Kodjeue Bay, St Maurice Bay, St Joseph Bay (to watch the traditional pirogues coming in), the Village of Vao (with its local fresh market) and more nooks and crannies of this fascinating island.

There really is so much to see and explore on the Isle of Pines, so much to love about every inch of the island.  All quite diverse and all stunningly beautiful – trying to find a favourite spot will be impossible.

Have you missed out if you just sit on Kuto Bay for the day?

Well, no…… how can you feel you missed out when you just spent a day in one of the most stunning locations on the planet!

But, yes……. Adventure, discovery and even more beauty await those who want to explore!

No-where on the island is better than Kuto Bay – just different!

Stay tuned in future blog posts to learn more about the adventures we had on Isle of Pines.

Do you have a special place that holds your heart from your travels?  Tell us about it in the comments below and sign up to receive our blog in your mail box every week.

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