Conventional behaviour sees most people cruising the South Pacific on the lookout for an exotic beach on which to lay, a search which doesn’t usually take too long. However, those with a more adventurous side may be more eager to see some of the local wildlife in the area, another endeavour usually satisfied quickly.
If you’ve placed yourself among the latter crowd but have never cruised this part of the world, it can be difficult to determine which cruise may be best for you based on what sort of native wildlife you might be hoping to see. The land and marine-based fauna of the South Pacific may not always be listed among the highlights of a particular port.
Best to see Turtles & Manta Rays: Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
Some of the most interesting wildlife in the South Pacific call this idyllic part of New Caledonia their home. Among the local marine life you’ll find here include giant populations of Green Sea and Loggerhead turtles.
Accessed by speedboat from the main tender landing point, guests are transported to the aptly named Turtle Bay, home to these giant creatures that can often measure close to a metre in length and weigh over 140 kilograms! During expeditions to encounter the animals, local hosts invite guests to swim with the reptiles in the turquoise waters of the bay. Guests can also get up close with harmless manta rays which share the bay with the turtles.
Best to see Birds, Butterflies & Aquarium: Noumea, New Caledonia
Cagou is the national bird of New Caledonia, and a small population can be found in Noumea’s bird sanctuary.
As the capital of New Caledonia, Noumea is home to the island chain’s main onshore wildlife attractions, with the city’s aquarium boasting displays of some of the worlds most diverse and interesting collections of animals from the waters of the South Pacific.
Highlights include special turtle and sea snake exhibits and dedicated “touch and feel” tanks to encourage interaction with many species of fish, coral and sea creatures. Entry to the aquarium starts from around AUD$20 per person, however most ships operate shore tours inclusive of entry and transport, as it is a considerable distance from Noumea’s port.
If your time on the outer islands has given you enough exposure to sea life, Noumea is also home to the Forest Park Bird Sanctuary. The unique aviary sits within Noumea’s Botanical Gardens and is the only place in the world where people can see Cagou – the national bird of New Caledonia – known for its unique dog bark bird call.
The bird sanctuary also features multiple tropical birds and many beautiful butterflies which inhabit the enclosures.
Best to catch fish: Port Denarau, Fiji
For keen fishing enthusiasts, the South Pacific is something of a paradise for anglers to throw in a rod or reel and indulge in their maritime passion. So if your idea of engaging with wildlife involves catching it, you will be chomping at the bit to jump aboard one of the many deep sea fishing charters offered from Port Denarau, Fiji.
Playing host to some of the most exclusive resorts in the island nation, cruise passengers are spoilt for choice, with many companies supplementing any selection offered directly by your cruise line, many opening up the experience to other budgets, styles and experience levels.
Giant Tuna, Mahi Mahi and Trevally are all common in the waters of Port Denarau, with most guests catching a least one of each, depending on weather. The best part is that some cruise lines will allow you to bring your catch onboard for the chefs to prepare your catch for dinner.
Best to see Dolphins & Whales: Moorea, French Polynesia
It can be easy to get distracted by the amazing scenery when sailing the Tahitian islands, however the waters of French Polynesia serve as some of the most fertile and supportive dolphin and whale breeding waters in the world.
Spinner and rough-tooth dolphins are common and found on 95% of tours operated from Moorea Harbour, while humpback whales are present in the area from July to October during the annual northern migrations. Failing all else, the scenic cruising around the island can be just as enchanting as seeing the marine life itself.
Best for seeing colourful fish: Lifou, New Caledonia
With over 2,000 species of fish and marine life in its renowned Jinek Bay, you would be crazy not to don a snorkel and view the undersea world during a visit to Lifou, one of the most frequently visited parts of the South Pacific by cruise ships.
Efforts are being made to protect the diverse nature of the species that call Jinek Bay home – one of the most pristine marine reserves in the world. Passengers are required to purchase a wristband permit from their ship in order to enter the water. This practice also gives guests the perfect opportunity to enjoy the unique area without being overrun with others disturbing the fish and other attractions in the water.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of this is that the revenues generated from the sales of wristbands goes towards ensuring locals are adequately equipped to restore, rehabilitate and protect the reef for generations to come.
What is your favourite port in the South Pacific to see wildlife? Tell us in the comments!