Mana Nautique and the world’s most amazing day at Ile des Pins
Turtles, manta rays, sharks, barracudas, clown fish, coral, lobster, white slivers of islets, turquoise waters, racing waves, drifting in bays, laughter, light, deep regards.
The most amazing day of my short life happened on 22 December 2012. I’ve been very blessed in this life and have known many a wonderful moment. But 22 December 2012 is burned permanently into my brain – and heart – as the one where the world’s most natural beauty burst through all my human boundaries.
Have you ever consciously entered into an experience so fully that you found yourself memorizing, and mesmerized by, it?
Such was most of my day at Ile des Pins (Isle of Pines) on an excursion with Mana Nautique last month. I’ve written a number of posts about Ile des Pins in the past – but if you don’t know what Ile des Pins is, it is paradise on Earth. If you live in New Caledonia, you must spend some time on this tiny island just half an hour away by plane (or 2.5 hours by boat). The most developed of New Caledonia’s surrounding islands, it is still untouched and stunning. If you visit New Caledonia one day, you cannot come all this way, and not go to Ile des Pins.
I’ve been to Ile des Pins 3 times and we decided to go a 4th time just before Christmas. Our daughter was visiting from the United States and wanted to see it again (having been twice herself). Once you’ve been, you are struck by its pristine waters, towering pines, tropical fish, and more (and words, I promise you, will fail you). You think you’ll remember it forever.
But the magic of this place is that when you go back, it is even more beautiful than you remembered.
So on 22 December, what happened exactly? We were taken out for the day on a small speed boat (a zodiac-type boat) by Nouka and his children. Nouka is Mana Nautique and he is very dedicated to his “friends for the day” (meaning his clients – but as he is not about the commercial side, he prefers to spend time with the people he sees each day as friends). He proposes a day out at sea, with the possibility of swimming with sea turtles and manta rays, a lobster/chicken/fresh fish lunch, snorkelling and relaxing on a sliver of white sand in the middle of nowhere. And then there is the drifting through calm bays on the way home. And if you are really lucky, you’ll bump into hundreds of dolphins … All this for 10,000 CFP (EUR 84 or AUD 106) per person (if you choose the lobster vs. fish or chicken lunch) for the day.*
Nouka photographs your day with your family and friends (if you wish), drives the boat, jumps in the water to play with the sea turtles that have befriended him, gives you a guided tour of the tiny, private islets (Nouano, Kotomereu and Nokuami) and various bays (Baie de St Joseph and Baie d’Upi), joins you for a quick drink before lunch, introduces you to his family (who make and serve the lunch – including catch the lobster and fish that morning) and does everything humanly possible to make your day perfect. We were taken with his kindness and attention, generosity and gentleness.
Though Mana Nautique does not have a website, Nouka posts all of the photos from the excursions on Mana Nautique’s Facebook page. I recommend you take a look! And for more photos from our day with Nouka, see the 22 December album.
When next at Ile des Pins, do give Mana Nautique a call at 90 97 61. Go out for the day. Swim with a turtle or a manta ray or two. While snorkelling, observe barracudas and sleeping sharks, a host of tropical fish. Listen to the silence. And imagine for a moment being stranded on an islet. I dare you to not be mesmerized, to not remember it for the rest of your life.
*Prices vary, I hear, depending on the hotel you book from. Nouka also mentioned that he does half-day excursions with the Australian cruises that come to visit Ile des Pins. So if you are visiting on an Australian cruise boat, ask your operator about Mana Nautique!