For former Howick & Pakuranga Times reporter Linda Shackelford, being selected as a New Caledonia ambassador in New Zealand was an incredible surprise and an experience she will never forget.
Earlier this month, Linda travelled to New Caledonia with five winners from around the world – China, Japan, Italy, France and Australia – who were selected as part of the Tourism New Caledonia competition ‘Caledonian Dream’ to explore the country.
They were selected from more than 1600 entrants from around the world and explored the diverse country by sea, land, and air, travelling 800km in nine days.
Every day of the nine day adventure was a surprise, with the ambassadors having no idea where they were going, or what they were doing.
They were filmed throughout their journey and interviewed by local New Caledonian news channels, as locals watched on at every leg of their journey.
Linda, who now runs boutique public relations agency, Expand PR, and supports a range of consumer, corporate and charity clients in New Zealand, says she was chosen for the trip for her media skills and is delighted she is able to use them to spread the word about New Caledonia in New Zealand.
“Tourism New Caledonia reports a large number of visitors to New Caledonia each year from New Zealand, who choose the destination for many reasons – it’s close proximity to New Zealand (less than a three-hour flight from Auckland), good healthcare, a variety of activities on offer and the luxury resorts,” she says.
While it’s a bit more expensive than your average Pacific Island holiday, Linda says it’s worth splashing out to experience the five-star resorts, dining experiences, and enjoy adventures such as ziplining 90m above rolling hills, or taking a short flight off the mainland to a tropical island such as Ouvea or Iles Des Pins.
“You’ve got to get out of Noumea and see all the sights and cultural delights of the archipelago. It would be like travelling to New Zealand and just staying in Auckland. New Caledonia is unique because it feels more like Europe, without the jetlag!” says Linda.
“The food has a very strong French influence (think cheese, croissants, baguettes and red wine) combined with food locally sourced (taro, coconut, sweet potato, fish, etc.
“I’ll definitely be going back – but first, I am looking forward to summer in New Zealand!”