Isle of Pines

New Caledonia is a very small island in the Southwest Pacific. Although it is close to other islands such as Vanuatu and Fiji, it is much less known. After spending a week in this paradise, its lack of popularity may be what makes it so much more incredible. Just like its neighbors, New Caledonia has a native population with their own dialects, but the difference is that its official language is French, not English.

We arrived in the capital city of Nouméa, which felt like any other city in the tropics. After an afternoon of exploring the city, we hopped on a small 30 minute flight to the Isle of Pines, a smaller island to the south of New Caledonia’s main island. Arriving and departing this island can be troublesome at times due to the smallness of the planes, runway and airport. On our arrival, it took two attempts to land the plane due to the wind.

It was here on this island that I finally felt secluded in the South Pacific. The Isle of Pines is surrounded by coral reefs and crystal clear water. The population consists mainly of Natives and totals around 2,000. Besides a resort and a few small motels, there is nothing but the beauty of nature to see and explore. We were fortunate to stay at Le Meridien, a beautiful resort that offered everything one could imagine.

We began our first day with an outrigger canoe trip in Upi Bay. To get out to the boat we had to wade in the water and walk across dead coral, which was quite difficult on the feet. Once aboard this “homemade” canoe, we sailed across waters of every shade of blue; while watching the fish, turtles and coral beneath us. Next, we went for a short hike to a private natural pool for snorkeling. Since it was winter, the water was frigid, but it was worth the cold to see the sights.

We concluded our spectacular day with an incredible dinner of French cuisine fused with local ingredients at Le Meridien. Knowing very little of French cuisine I decided to keep an open mind and try everything. The fish and lamb were excellent, and to my surprise, I enjoyed the escargot the most.

The next day we had a private tour of the island where we saw a gorgeous cave, different kinds of beaches and lookout points to see the sunset. We visited a small Catholic Church and shrine by the ocean. It was quite interesting to see how the Natives intertwined their customs and beliefs with Catholicism. This shrine consisted of the Jesus surrounded by tribal sculptures, although two very different things, they blended beautifully against the backdrop of the sea.

That night we were scheduled to depart but our flight was cancelled due to the wind. We were happy to have one more day in paradise. When we finally departed the next day, it took our pilot six attempts to land the plane back in Nouméa and every second was worth the experience of the Isle of Pines.

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