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).
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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!