New Caledonia's Isle of Pines

9 November 2012

One of my favourite places in the world, New Caledonia's Isle of Pines is located 50 kilometres south-east of Grand Terre; a 20-minute flight from Noumea. Measuring just 18 kilometres by 14 kilometres, the Isle of Pines features pristine beaches and unspoiled bays to take your breath away. Known to the locals as 'Kuni,' the Isle of Pines is a little bit of paradise in the South Pacific.

Here are the top activities for travellers exploring New Caledonia's Isle of Pines.

 Isle of Pines

Snorkelling
Maurice Bay is the perfect place to swim or snorkel in crystal clear, calm waters. Beginner snorkellers may prefer the shallow waters of the Oro natural pool near Oro Bay, located just a short walk form La Meridien Resort. Also near Oro Bay is a traditional fish reserve popular with snorkellers due to its protected waters and abundance of brightly coloured fish. Wear protective footwear and keep an eye out for submerged rays hiding in shallow water.

Scuba Diving
New Caledonia boasts the world's second largest coral reef. Dive enthusiasts will be delighted with the calm, clear conditions and the colourful dive sites surrounding the Isle of Pines. At the northern end of the Isle of Pines is Gadji Pass, an ideal dive site, where you'll discover a sheer wall in the Gogonia Valley, which drops from 10 metres to 35 metres and boasts colourful underwater scenery. The Devil's Grotto or Satan's Cave, accessible via a narrow corridor underwater, will amaze even the most experienced divers. 

Sailing & Canoeing
If you have a couple of days to spare, charter a yacht and enjoy a leisurely journey over to The Isle of Pines from the Port of Noumea. Anchor in Kuto Bay or opt for Kanamera, southeast of Kuto, for a better-protected anchorage. Spend some time ashore exploring the island before arranging a trip on a pirogue, a traditional outrigger canoe. Visit Nekanmue Atoll for its sun-bleached coral beach, and nautilus and cowrie shells.

Walking & Cycling
The Isle of Pines offers spectacular self-guided walks and cycling tours. Visit the small village of Vao and see the statue of Saint Maurice in St Maurice Bay, where the island's first Catholic service was held when missionaries made their presence felt in 1848 and the local Kanaks added their own protective totems of serpents, turtles and eagles, carved from tree trunks. Hike to the highest point of the island, at 262 metres, Pic Nga. Explore limestone caves, including Paradise Cave that features a lake.

Relaxing
On the southern tip of the Isle of Pines in the South Pacific, outside the Barrier Reef, lies a tiny atoll known as Nokanhui. In this idyllic spot, with only the sea birds and an occasional butterfly for company, you can spend an entire day, fishing or reading or simply lazing, without a care in the world.

Xanthe Coward

Xanthe's favourite travel destinations are the Greek Islands, Indonesia, Fiji and Vanuatu. With a background in performing arts, fine food, wine and good times, Xanthe enjoys travel that brings her close to the locals and their leisure activities. Being a theatre reviewer means that Xanthe will always do dinner and a show before checking out the late night city scene and still be up early to find the markets and a decent pot of chai.