Return to Magazine Index

Ilot de Gie

Isle of Pines

Jewel of the Pacific

By Andrew Whitehead

Published in Dive Log Australasia October 2000



Early in August, my wife and I went on a trip that was tailor made for us by Jenny Harris of Absolute Scuba.  We spent two days in Noumea in New Caledonia on our way to the Isle of Pines.  We visited the territorial and maritime museums and the cultural centre.  We stayed at Le Pacifique Hotel on the Anse Vata Beach and travelled at all times by autobus, quite cheaply, with the local Melanesians and other tourists.  We bought croissants for breakfast and poulet sandwiches (chicken rolls) for lunch.  The two restaurants that we visited were superb.  However, a reasonable understanding of French is a definite advantage!

Isle of Pines

We had a 30-minute scenic flight from the domestic airport to the Isle of Pines, which was named by Captain Cook.  This is a beautiful island, surrounded by coral reef, with rich soil and still has a good covering of pine trees.  The minibus from Relais de Kodjeue picked us up and took us to the resort, which is built on an old coconut plantation on the western side of the island.  We moved into our own hut, with private balcony overlooking the beach.  It was well appointed with tasteful furniture and French plumbing.

The dive boat returned at lunchtime, and I went over to the Plongee shop to confirm my place for the next day. Uli Ruefenacht was running the show while the owner of the Kunie Scuba Centre was away.  Uli is from the Red Sea, speaks English, and is a very experienced dive guide. Their tanks are standard 88s with normal open faced valves. I spent the afternoon selecting the appropriate bits of gear from my 25kg dive bag.  One of the heavier items was my DIN/Yoke adaptor, which turned out to be essential.  The water is 22 degrees so I decided to wear my poly-prop suit and my two-piece 5ml wetsuit.

La Plongee

After a buffet breakfast, my wife went off on an island tour, and I dressed for a boat trip.  The dive boat is a catamaran with twin 225 hp outboards; lots of room and perfect for this location.  The skipper was a local guy and headed out past the northern tip of the main island, just off the little Ilot de Gie. We were a cosmopolitan group, with French, Italian and Japanese divers, so the dive briefing was given by each dive guide in a different language.  Uli briefed me in English and provided an assortment of loose weights for my Tech Lift BCD.

The first dive was on "Twin Heads" which are large hills of coral, quite spectacular, with crevices, valleys and caves.  I dived with Uli and an Italian couple where we reached a maximum depth of 32 metres on a wall which dropped to 70 metres.  We saw a large turtle, but I was the only one to see a 2-metre grey reef shark.

Back on the boat, I made the shark fin sign on my head.  "So who saw the shark, eh?" I asked.  Well that attracted everyone’s attention.  The questions came thick and fast in Japanese, French, Italian, and variously accented English!  I responded as best I could.  “Hai, Oui, two metres, gris, grey, etc.”

The second dive was to the "Valley of the Sea Fans" which was just as spectacular.  The boat dropped off three groups of divers and drifted during the dive.  Each dive guide used a safety sausage on a cord to mark the position of the safety stop, making it easy for the skipper to pick them up.  Altogether, a very professional operation.


During the afternoon a Cessna seaplane arrived with some guests and anchored near the beach.  What a way to travel!  Our meals were beautifully prepared by the French chef and local staff waited on the tables.

The next day, we visited a big cave where, 150 years ago, Queen Hortense hid from the French for ten years.  It’s awfully damp in there!  Then back to the airport for a quick flight back to Noumea for another day of sight seeing.  In the evening we took the coach to the international airport way down in the Southern Province, and had a 2-hour QANTAS flight home.  One thing is for sure.  On my next trip, I am taking a gear bag with built-in wheels!

Return to Magazine Index

Home News Scuba Diving Articles Author Contact Links