OP.. if you feel more comfortable then definitely book the tours provided. They usually do a great job but can book up fast.
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Bargain with taxi drivers in villa for price but not at markets.
Noumea is really expensive. We did a tour with gateway noumea tours (or similar). Find them on Facebook, much better prices then the ship. the aquarium is really cool in noumea, nowhere as big as Sydney but only about $10 to get in.
Lifou and villa take Aussie dollar but noumea doesn't so you need south pacific francs. You can use Vatu in villa if you want.
The taxis (minivans really) look dodgy in villa but it's all a part if the experience of being in a foreign (??3rd world) country.
Snorkelling at lifou is awesome. You can only snorkel in the good spot (jeink bay i think its calked) by getting a ship tour now so they can limit visitors to protect the coral.
Hope this helps.
Ohh, esacoup (????spelling) cultural village in villa is pretty cool as well.
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