After a weekend in Nouméa, where the nights were as action-packed at the day, our 6 Caledodreamers set off on a new adventure. For two days they’ll be exploring the Isle of Pines, jewel of south New Caledonia, also known as the pearl of the Pacific.
Early in the morning the shuttle bus picks up our six night birds from the Hilton's Nouméa La Promenade Residences, dropping them off at Magenta Airport for a flight to the Isle of Pines. The group is just as excited to get on board one of the Air Calédonie planes as they were for the trip to Ouvéa Island. Everybody tries to get a seat next to the window. Once they are up in the air, it's impossible to drag them away from the windows, as all of them drink in the incomparable view over the lagoon and the reefs opening up beneath them.
Less than half an hour later, the 6 Caledodreamers step onto the soil of the Isle of Pines for the first time and try to guess the right pronunciation of the French name for the island, Île des Pins. Dario tries out an "île de pine" before being corrected by Monique who confidently pronounces it as "île des pins". Then at the Méridien Ile des Pins reception, they are welcomed by Mia and Corinne, who will be their guide for the day. Ecstatic at finding out that this 5 star hotel will be their home for the next two days, the group happily gets on the minibus waiting to take them to St Joseph's Bay. On the approach to the bay, the group looks through the windows of the bus and is surprised to see the turquoise lagoon and their future mode of transport, the island's traditional pirogue boat!
It's time for an hour's ride across the breath-taking crystal waters of Upi Bay with Dani, the captain. The 6 adventurers take turns to swap places on the boat so they can each enjoy the best moments of the morning's trip. Then, all of a sudden, the bay's majestic coral reefs rise up before them. After the initial outbursts of joy, everybody falls silent, spellbound by so much beauty. Soon the island's iconic columnar pines come into view, the same trees that inspired James Cook to name the whole island after them after he discovered it in 1774.
The group finally lands on the other side of the bay as the morning draws to a close. Corinne then guides the team through a luxuriant forest, showing them the wildlife and plant life endemic to the island, such as bulimes (a type of local land snail) and noutous (New Caledonian imperial pigeons) among others. On the way, a luxury picnic, organised by the hotel, awaits them. Then the Caledodreamers get back on the road, and at the edge of the woods, next to a limpid ocean strait, Oro Bay's famous natural swimming pool emerges into view. Monique, Linda and Ethan are the first to splash into the water as they can't wait to check out all the multicoloured fish harboured by the pool. Marion and Aya are close behind while Dario tests out the temperature of the water. A few moments later, all of them are joyously bathing in this haven of natural peace.
After this magical experience, the group heads back to the Méridien Ile des Pins. Nestled upstream, and screened by foliage, the 6 adventurers are delighted to discover the new lodgings for their stay. Everybody then decides to meet up by the hotel's swimming pool, looking out over the lagoon, to talk about their incredible first day on the island over some excellent cocktails. "It's got to be a pina colada", Linda happily proclaims, raising her glass.
When it's time for dinner, the hotel puts on a delightful spread of prawn tempura, duck and fresh fruit mousses. After this hearty meal, the Caledodreamers retire to their spacious rooms for a good night's sleep before setting off on the second part of their island adventure on the morrow.