Ile des Pins: What to do and where to go
We were lucky enough to return to Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) earlier this month. It is one of New Caledonia’s neighbouring islands, and to our minds, the most beautiful place in the world (if not the closest thing to paradise on Earth).
I’ve written about Ile des Pins several times as it is one of my favourite places, and is always a pleasure to spend a few days visiting. I stand firm by my belief that if you can get all the way to New Caledonia, the one thing you must not miss is Ile des Pins. La grande terre (the mainland) is lovely, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Ile des Pins.
Getting to Ile des Pins
It only takes 2.5 hours by boat or half an hour by plane to get to Ile des Pins from Nouméa. The boat (Betico) is a pleasant ride (as it is almost the size of a ferry) and is the best way to arrive on the island (from the perspective of appreciating the beauty of the island).
Where to stay on the island
We have stayed at the Ouré Tera on Kanuméra Bay the last 3 times we’ve been there (2007, 2012, 2013) and have loved our stay each time. The location is striking for its traquility, peace, natural beauty and the warmth of its staff.
We’ve stayed at other locations on the island, but have a soft spot for Ouré Tera. It is a great place to relax and unwind, provides a wonderful breakfast buffet as well as good lunch and evening fare. The staff are very accommodating and the bungalows clean and comfortable (even luxurious, if you’re used to camping).
Here, though, is a list of other accommodations on the island.
What to do on Ile des Pins
The first day, upon arrival, we tend to explore Kanuméra Bay, take the kayaks out (do not climb the sacred rock called Le Rocher; it is okay to swim around it, but you are not allowed to climb it), go snorkeling and appreciate the incredibly white, fine sand and palm trees. The views from the bay are paradisaical in and of themselves.
The second day, I always recommend riding on a pirogue outrigger (45 minutes) through Upi Bay, which is a very relaxing way to take in the turquoise waters, to marvel at the clarity of the water, the blue skies, the ease and silence available to anyone who is quiet for a moment. After the ride on your pirogue, and an invigorating walk through mud to the shore, you’ll have a 30-45-minute walk through the forest – a wonderful way to see another side of the island. You’ll feel like you’re in a “Survivor” or “Koh-lanta” show, traipsing through the forest, knowing there are no roads or shops, police or hospital services within easy reach. You’ll bring water, your mobile phone, good walking shoes (though I’ve seen people in flip-flops), and a good sense of humour. At the other end, you can lunch on fresh lobster or bougna (the traditional Kanak meal), fashioned in a traditional underground oven.
Once lunch is over, you can go visit the piscine naturelle (natural pool), which is a pool, just this side of the ocean. Known for its beauty, you’ll swim with hundreds of tropical fish which you can feed with a little bread (if you remember to bring some). At low tide, you can stand in the water, watching the fish swim around you. Even for those who do not snorkel, you’ll feel like you are living in an aquarium.
Your third or fourth day, I always recommend an outing with Mana Nautique (Tel: +687 90 97 61). Our guests this time said it was by far the highlight of their 2-week stay in New Caledonia. And it is always my favourite day ever, hands’ down. It’s an all-day outing on a zodiac with Nouka and another captain (he went out with 2 boats this last time), which takes you through the thrills of swimming with sea turtles and Manta rays, sharks (if you want to), and if you are lucky, seeing dolphins. He will take you to a beautiful atoll (Nokanhui) which is only accessible when you are with him or have the owning tribe’s permission (via another provider). And you will feel like you are alone on the earth, on a strip of white sand, marooned and happily so. You will enjoy a wonderful lunch of fresh lobster or chicken or fish and time to wander.
Our last day (the fourth day), we generally relax and take in the bays and the quiet again. But you can also visit Hortense’s cave, go scuba diving up in the north of the island, rent a bicycle or a scooter and visit Voh. I hear you can go horse-riding and visit a vanilla plantation as well. Here is a site that lists the various possibilities.
Whatever you do, you’ll experience the warmth and openness of the Melanesians. You’ll inevitably find yourself wondering why we’ve chosen our lives and respecting them more deeply for having chosen theirs.