Isle of Pines, New Caledonia – “Jewel of the South Pacific”

Without doubt my trip to the Isle of Pines (‘Ile des Pins’ in French) was where I witnessed some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen! (as I reflected I thought – this is the furthest place I’ve traveled to from the UK and yet it is the most beautiful!)  Pristine white sandy beaches, warm crystal clear waters, colourful sea life, coral reefs and limestone cliff, lined with soaring Norfolk pine trees (which gives the island it’s name).

A view from Koueney Beach (on the south side of the island), looking out towards Adventure island.

A view from Koueney Beach (on the south side of the island), looking out towards Adventure island.

The Isle of Pines, at the southernmost tip of New Caledonia, is known as the Jewel of the South Pacific (measuring only 14km wide and 18km long). It is 80km south-east of Noumea and is a place where time stands still.  Few have heard of this place and even less have discovered it – just a dot on the map and a place where time stands still!  We had to fly in as the only ferry has been sent to Australia for repairs!

My first view of the island from a hike I did on my first day.  I was so excited to go explore!

My first view of the island from a hike I did on my first day. I was so excited to go explore!

This is me upon reaching Nokanhui atoll - very happy to be in one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

This is me upon reaching Nokanhui atoll – very happy to be in one of the most beautiful places on Earth!

In the 5 days that I had here, I did plenty of exploring and of course, photographing the stunning landscapes.  Adventures included a speedboat trip to Nokanhui atoll (a small sand bar near the southern tip of the outlying reef); a lobster BBQ on Moro Island; sailing past huge coral stacks in Upi Bay on a Pirogues outrigger canoe (these traditional watercraft have mostly disappeared from the rest of New Caledonia, but here tourism has demanded their preservation!).

Our rather un-talkative captain of the outrigger canoe we took a trip on up Upi Bay.

Our rather un-talkative captain of the outrigger canoe we took a trip on up Upi Bay.

Upi Bay with a fleet of traditional Pirogues outrigger canoe bringing sight-seers like me!

Upi Bay with a fleet of traditional Pirogues outrigger canoe bringing sight-seers like me!

Iconic coral and limestone stacks in Upi Bay

Iconic coral and limestone stacks in Upi Bay

Enjoying the outrigger canoe sailing trip across Upi Bay...

Enjoying the outrigger canoe sailing trip across Upi Bay…

As I waded through the waters around Nokanhui atoll I was privileged to witness a large Sea Eagle flying overhead carrying a large fish!

As I waded through the waters around Nokanhui atoll I was privileged to witness a large Sea Eagle flying overhead carrying a large fish!

Incredible hospitality we received on Moro Island, with fresh lobster & fish BBQ.  Not my normal lunch, but very nice!

Incredible hospitality we received on Moro Island, with fresh lobster & fish BBQ. Not my normal lunch, but very nice!

I was even persuaded to try the Isle of Pines snails... a delicacy here.  They actually tasted ok (probably because of the garlic!!)

I was even persuaded to try the Isle of Pines snails… a delicacy here. They actually tasted ok (probably because of the garlic!!)

I stayed in a self-catering bungalow with my Uncle, Aunt & Cousins, by Kanumera Bay (in the Gite Nataiwatch resort).  I enjoyed walking around this beautiful sandy bay, and round the coral cliff to Kuto Bay and Koueney Beach (which is opposite Adventure island, a tiny island about 500m from shore, which I could only reach by swimming!!)  The sea was very warm, calm and friendly (due to the corals reefs which surround the islands there are no sharks or big waves….just countless incredibly colourful tropical fish which I enjoyed snorkeling with!).  Early one morning I did a 3hour hike up Pic (Peak) N’Ga, which although only 262m high, gave quite a work out as the path was very rocky and the temperature in the 20°C’s.  This gave me great views of the bays I have just mentioned and a 360° view of the whole island.

This sign caught my eye, as it resembles my Facebook name 'Pic Nic'

This sign caught my eye, as it resembles my Facebook name ‘Pic Nic’

View from Pic N'Ga towards Kanumera & Kuto Bay

View from Pic N’Ga towards Kanumera & Kuto Bay

Koueney Beach with the island's distinctive pine trees.

Koueney Beach with the island’s distinctive pine trees.

The coral/limestone rocky cliffs have been worn away, making a great walk-way around the headlands at low tide.

The coral/limestone rocky cliffs have been worn away, making a great walk-way around the headlands at low tide.

A very popular spot on the island required us taking a boat trip, hike through the rain forest and wading through waist deep water of the Oro Bay – with winding tidal channels and a natural pool (known as the Piscine Naturelle or the “Natural Aquarium”) bordered by coral cliffs, which form protection from the open sea.  It was really pleasant snorkeling here and getting surrounded by great numbers of beautiful fish!  Unfortunately as my camera is not waterproof, I don’t have any underwater shots.

One of my favourite shots - from the natural aquarium pool in Oro Bay

One of my favourite shots – from the natural aquarium pool in Oro Bay

Always look up...beautiful things to be seen.

Always look up…beautiful things to be seen.

For a moment, I thought I was trapped in the rain forest!

For a moment, I thought I was trapped in the rain forest!

I would highly recommend visiting the Isle of Pines if you would like to escape to a small desert island, which was to me the closest thing to paradise on Earth!  A good variety of local excursions are put on by local people and the prices are very good value.  Cruise ships even stop here, and when they do though (as I witnessed on our last day), hundreds of excited passengers quickly invade the quiet island and make the beaches more like those I’ve been to in the South of France!  It was good to see the locals coming out in force with their market stalls, selling souvenirs and food and showcasing some of their traditional music and dancing!

A local man called Thierry who I got talking to and he happily let me take this portrait.  I also took a shot of him and his grandchildren (and I have posted him some prints as a thank you!)

A local man called Thierry who I got talking to and he happily let me take this portrait. I also took a shot of him and his grandchildren (and I have posted him some prints as a thank you!)

The day the Cruise Ship arrives..was kind of eerie as the peaceful beach was about to be invaded by hundreds of excited tourists!  Good job this was the day I was leaving.

The day the Cruise Ship arrives..was kind of eerie as the peaceful beach was about to be invaded by hundreds of excited tourists! Good job this was the day I was leaving.

Here is a fairly healthy coloured me with my Uncle, Auntie & Cousins.

Here is a fairly healthy coloured me with my Uncle, Auntie & Cousins.

When the sun is too hot, head for the shade and enjoy a different view (Kanumera Bay)

When the sun is too hot, head for the shade and enjoy a different view (Kanumera Bay)

The 1km long Kuto Bay at sunset.

The 1km long Kuto Bay at sunset.

Sunset from Kuto Bay, behind the cliffs.
Sunset from Kuto Bay, behind the cliffs.

You can see the full set of my Isle of Pine photos here: http://bit.ly/1fqzAlD

2 Comments

  1. Arlene

    Such breathtaking beauty…added this place to my Wish List. Thank you for sharing and for the future adventure inspiration. Safe travels!

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