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New Caledonia: bougna!

If you’re a bit of an explorer and a getter-amongst-the-locals kinda traveller, then when you go to New Caledonia, book a slow cooked homemade lunch up in the hill country with a local tribe.

Jehudit (pronounced Jay Dee) and his wife run a small business on their family land hosting travellers for lunch and taking them on a walking tour through the hillside.

The bougna (pronounced boo-nya) is the Kanak version of the hangi. Except it’s different. Here’s what it is…

New Caledonia hill tribe

Seven year old Djaoun is home from school for teacher-only day.

New Caledonia taro

She wields a kitchen knife to chop up the taro and I can barely watch!

Bougna New Caledonia

Then dad piles the chicken, onions, taro, ignames and seasoning onto banana leaves softened quickly over a fire…

Bougna New Caledonia

He props the sides up with coconut shells to make a well

Bougna New Caledonia

Then pours fresh coconut milk over the meal to be slow cooked

Bougna New Caledonia

Pulls up the banana leaves and ties it neatly into a basket

Bougna New Caledonia

Then down we go into the garden to place it on hot coals

Bougna New Caledonia

Cover in more rocks and sheets of gum tree bark. These same sheets have been used for 5 years already. Leave for 2 hours…

Tribe New Caledonia

And off we go for a stroll up hill, through fields and across creeks to see where the 300-or so from the Napoemien tribe live

New Caledonia tribe

The Napoemien tribe meeting house where weddings and gatherings are a regular occurrence

Angels Trumpet, New Caledonia

The ironically named Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) which can cause blurry vision, dizziness, hallucinations and even death. I was told some stupid young people around here take it anyway…

New Caledonia bougna

After 2 hours Djaoun, her little brother and cousin remove the hot bark

New Caledonia bougna

And with great concentration she cuts away her dad’s knots

New Caledonia bougna


New Caledonia bougna

Lunch is served.

And this, my friends, is what you can expect at a New Caledonia bougna at a tribe in the north.

New Caledonia bougna

Jeduhit and his wife are building this new commercial kitchen where they will prepare their food

New Caledonia bougna

Without the kittens that will sneak a lick of a frying pan if they can!

New Caledonia Toutazimut

And with my guide Axelle of Toutazimut, which is French for Anywhere, we leave this beautiful family after a really great 3 hours

To book this tour, contact Axelle on her Toutazimut Facebook page >>>


My trip was supported by Aircalin NZ and New Caledonia Tourism NZ. Thanks guys!


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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

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