David hangs out in the pool at Le Méridien.
Isle of Pines.
Le Méridien pool.
One of the bungalows.
It's easy to see why the Isle of Pines is known as the "place closest to paradise".
The island known as "the place closest to paradise" or "jewel of the Pacific" was named Isle of Pines by Captain James Cook in 1774 when he saw the araucaria trees which lined its shore. In 1853, it was claimed by the French who Gallicised it to Ile de Pins.
The araucarias, now known as Norfolk pines, were suitable for marine purposes, but the fragrant sandalwood attracted Europeans, who still consider it a valuable wood.
Sadly, the island became a French convict settlement for political prisoners from the uprising in France. Many young artisans and intellectuals were held there, and after the amnesty, most returned to France, and a few settled in Noumea. The island remained a prison for petty thieves from France who became known as "wretches in paradise".
Traditionally, the islanders were fishermen and farmers who worshipped the land, sea and nature. Missionaries arrived in 1848 and introduced French Catholicism, which is still the main religion.
Isle of Pines, known to locals as "Kuni", is New Caledonia's finest, and is special because of its incredible beaches and bays. It is only 18km wide, and around 95 percent of its 2000 residents are Kanaks, who are a warm and friendly people. Despite the very obvious French influence, they still have their own language.
One of the island's few moneymakers is the edible snail or escargot. The large land molluscs are collected from the forest by local women and sent to Noumea before being exported to various restaurants of the world where they are served as a delicacy.
Oro Bay, a natural turquoise lagoon with saltwater channels and white sandy beach, is where you will find Le Méridien Resort, the island's only luxury resort. Its 29 bungalows were inspired by Melanesian architecture and are on four-and-a-half hectares of coconut grove, surrounded by Norfolk pines. Rooms are air-conditioned, have all the necessary facilities, a large outdoor terrace, separate living area and they overlook the pool and beach. There are also 10 rooms with timber flooring, teak furniture, king or twin beds and overlooking the lush gardens or pool. They can be interconnected.
A 10-minute walk from the resort along a sandy fork takes you to a pool of natural, pristine water. It is waist deep, totally protected and filled with tiny fish, so is perfect for learner snorkellers.
The La Pirogue restaurant and La Boussole bar serve wonderful meals and drinks, breakfast is a feast, barbecue lunches are appropriately casual, and tropical refreshments are always available.
There are loads of activities such as canoeing, pedal boating, snorkelling, scuba diving and sailing. If you feel like doing something on land, there are bicycles, volleyball, petanque, table tennis, billiards, nature walks and trekking. Tours on one of the famous outrigger canoes, known as pirogue, can be arranged.
The Baie de St Maurice is a little bay where the first Catholic service was held on the Island. It has a statue of St Maurice high on a coral platform, and locals have carved totems out of tree trunks depicting eagles, turtles, serpents and faces with extended tongues to guard him.
The island's chief has requested there be no topless or nude bathing or sunbathing, and wearing only a swimsuit anywhere away from a beach or pool is not tolerated.
20 minutes flight from Noumea.
Qantas Holidays has seven-night packages to Ile Des Pins, including return economy airfares, transfers, accommodation at Le Méridien and breakfast daily, starting at $2808 from Sydney, $3073 from Melbourne and $2952 from Brisbane. Prices are per person, twin-share, and taxes, levies and charges are extra. Conditions apply.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Qantas Holidays: Ph: 13 14 15
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor
: 1300 658 844 or visit traveldoctor.com.au
Vaccinations: Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Measles if under 30 years. Malaria is not a threat. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Gut problems are common so be prepared Ã¢â‚¬â€œ take a medical kit such as The Tour Kit so you can treat travel health problems quickly. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and an insect repellent containing DEET. Both can be hard to find out of Australia.