Posted by on 01 Nov 2019 , in Islands
Set pine-lined beaches and clear warm waters against sky-piercing mountains and jagged cliffs, add in some of the unmistakable French charm, and the picture you get is New Caledonia. Rising as one of the world’s destinations when it comes to beach getaways, most people who take a trip to New Caledonia are lured in by the stunning beaches and there’s no surprise there. However, one thing that escapes most visitors is that New Caledonia’s French-Melanesian gastronomic scene is a food lover’s dream come true and the food festivals? Oh they are delicious, vibrant celebrations anyone who seeks the unique should not miss!
Situated amidst the warm waters of the southwest Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia enjoys a tropical climate that made the islands one of the world’s largest producers of yams, taro, plantains, and coconuts. Not to mention the tasty marriage of classical French cooking techniques and rich local flavours that never fails to make a New Caledonia trip all the more memorable. Considering all these, it is inevitable then that a huge chunk of festivals in New Caledonia are all about food!
If you’re a foodie, exploring the local food scene is a must and these major food festivals in New Caledonia are entirely worth the trip to this wonderful tropical French paradise:
SACRED YAM FESTIVAL
Yams have a lofty status among the Kanak people. They are treated with reverence, and the presence of yams is a must at events such as births, deaths and marriages, making the yam festival the most important event in the Kanak calendar. After declaring ready by the elders, the yams are harvested and presented to the chief and senior clansmen. This marks the beginning of the yam harvest. A priest blesses the yams the next day before distributing among villagers.
Numerous yam festivals are held in villages across New Caledonia from February to April, but it is the Noumea Yam Festival in mid-April which is perhaps the most famous. If you happen to be in Noumea around this time, there’s no way you’ll miss the parades, exhibitions, carnivals, concerts, and tasting that take place virtually everywhere and if you like dancing, you’re in for a great time!
GIANT OMELETTE FESTIVAL, PAR FAYARD
Held at Par Fayard on the second weekend following Easter, the Giant Omelette Festival of New Caledonia sees no less than a dozen chefs whip up a huge omelette measuring 3.5 metres and using no less than 7,000 eggs! The giant omelette is then shared among the participants.
New Caledonia is one of the few places in the world celebrating this festival so it’s a unique experience worth indulging in. In case you are wondering how this unique festival came about, it is actually a nod to that time when the townspeople of Bessieres, as a show of charity during the war, created a giant omelette to feed the army of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
AVOCADO FESTIVAL, MARÉ
Avocado is Mare’s primary agricultural commodity and the April Avocado Festival is one of the most important cultural festivals in New Caledonia, always celebrated by numerous leisure activities, traditional dances, music and of course, avocado tastings. Not only is the event a means to showcase the exceptional work of the agricultural community, it also offers a chance to have an authentic experience by staying at homes within the tribe.
CHEESE FESTIVAL, NOUMEA
Cheese does make everything better and life is just oh so good in Noumea when cheese takes top priority every June! The colourful Cheese Festival in Noumea is a celebration of the cheese-making art and has been delighting participants for the past 14 years. If you’re a serious turophile, or cheese lover, you absolutely must make room in your calendar for this mouthwatering event in New Caledonia. There’s sure to be a fabulous selection of fine cheeses as award-winning Maître fromagier, or cheese masters, come to Noumea specifically for this event. Expect a buffet of over 130 cheese specialties paired with wine and keep an eye out for wholegrain mustard brie, exquisite Brillat Savarin with truffles, pungent Berthaut Trou du Cru, tiny Bouton de culotte Mini Clac goat's milk cheeses, and lots more!
LAGOON FESTIVAL, OUVEA
Surrounded by a stunning lagoon with impossibly rich marine life, New Caledonia is not complete without its barrage of flavourful seafood and Ouvea takes it up a notch with a weekend-long festival. The annual Lagoon Festival celebrates the island’s marine heritage and the beautiful lagoon, and aims to raise awareness of environmental conservation and sustainability. Visitors are sure to be greeted by plenty of fresh sea produce and lagoon activities. Have a taste of mule, mud crab, duck bill, china lobster, trochus, giant clams and more. If you love fishing, try your hand at the fishing contest!
Dubbed the most popular and oldest bush fair in New Caledonia, the 3-day Bourail Fair that happens at the Téné Racecourse every August brings in more than 25,000 visitors to witness or participate in a wide range of activities such as wood-chopping, stock car racing and sheep dog shows. The festival is also a great way to taste all the flavours of New Caledonia. Take your pick from a huge selection of homemade jams, venison sausages, and fresh fruits and vegetables while watching spectacular rodeo shows by the ranchers of Grand Terre. Children are also bound to have fun trying to grab a ribbon tied to a calf let loose in the arena.
Also, don’t be shocked to see some flip-flops in the air! The Fair of Bourail has been hosting a strange contest since 2003 where participants throw flip-fops, or thong sandals, and whoever throws the farthest wins. Anyone can join the contest and if you think it will be easy to win, take note that the record is 60 metres!
COFFEE FESTIVAL, SARRAMEA
Coffee fans, wake up, wake up! Launched in 2000 to celebrate the centennial of Sarraméa, a major 670-acre coffee plantation village located 120 kilometres to the north of Nouméa at the foot of the Dogny Plateau, the annual Coffee Festival is one huge coffee tasting event in New Caledonia! Take time to tour the coffee plantation or watch any of the many cultural entertainment, but whatever you do, don’t miss sampling the famous coffee of Sarraméa! To simply describe the quality of the coffee would not possibly do it justice, but to give you an idea, let’s just say that its is so exceptional that former French President Jacques Chirac would have it flown to Paris for his caffeine hit of choice.
VANILLA FESTIVAL, LIFOU
If you’re one for the sweet taste of vanilla, travel to Lifou! Lifou is one solid destination for those who crave tranquil beaches and clear, sparkling waters but it is also known worldwide for its vast vanilla plantations. Vanilla is a flavour popularly used in New Caledonian cooking, and no one knows how to cultivate high-quality vanilla beans better than the Mou tribe on Lifou. Visit the vanilla plantation, join the guided walks, and take part in traditional singing and dancing. Miss Lifou Tourism is also chosen during the festival, and with a series of performances, expect the podium to never go quiet. It also goes without saying that this three-day festival in New Caledonia features lines of stalls showcasing vanilla in all forms so go dig in to your heart’s content!