The plants of New Caledonia are a very strange lot. They may go without flowering for years and then, one year, pow, a particular species will bloom all at once.
When we sailed into Baie Maa on June 14th the Niaouli trees were all blooming. The white fuzzy blossoms covered the hillsides and made the trees look like they were covered in snow and we could smell the honey-rich aroma from a mile away - literally.
The Niaouli tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia var. cineole may have originated in New Caledonia and is one of the most common trees in the dry western forests of Grande Terre. We've seen it blooming before but never in such massive abundance.
Niaouli trees are famous. Related to the New Zealand Tea Tree and the Eucalyptus, the essential oil distilled from the leaves and terminal stems of the tree, has a wide variety of medicinal uses. It is used to treat muscle aches, cuts, fungal skin and digestive infections, candida, herpes simplex, viral hepatitis, influenza and most respiratory conditions. You can buy it in most of Noumea's supermarkets and the New Caledonia Niaouli Oil is shipped all over the world.
I wandered up into the forest until I found this particularly lovely area. I used my trusty little GoPro Hero3 on the end of a telescoping fishing pole to bring you this sphere image of the magic medicinal plant of New Caledonia.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.