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Upi Bay, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia

The Isle of Pines (French: Île des Pins; Kanak name: Kunyié) is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of L'Île-des-Pins, in the South Province of New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is often nicknamed l'île la plus proche du paradis ("the closest island to Paradise") and is famous for snorkeling and scuba diving in and around its colorful lagoon. Many species of tropical fish and corals can be seen in the transparent water.


The island is located around 22°37′S 167°29′E / 22.617°S 167.483°E / -22.617; 167.483Coordinates: 22°37′S 167°29′E / 22.617°S 167.483°E / -22.617; 167.483 and measures 15 km (9 miles) by 13 km (8 miles). It lies southeast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia's main island and is approximately 100 kilometres south-east of the capital Noumea. There is one airport (code ILP) with a 1,097-meter (3,600 ft) runway. The Isle of Pines is surrounded by the New Caledonia Barrier Reef.

The inhabitants of the island are mainly native Melanesian Kanaks and the population is approximately 2,000 (estimated 2006) (1989 population 1,465).

The island is rich with animal life and is home to many unique creatures such as the Crested Gecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus and the world's largest gecko Rhacodactylus leachianus.

The pic Nga is the island's highest point, at 262 meters (860 ft) elevation.

History

The island was first discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774 on his second voyage to New Zealand. Captain Cook gave the island its name after seeing the tall native pines (Araucaria columnaris). It is said he never actually disembarked onto the island but as he saw signs of inhabitance (smoke) assumed it was inhabited. In the 1840s both Protestant and Catholic missionaries arrived, along with merchants seeking sandalwood.

The French took possession of the island in 1853 at which time the native Kunies opted for the Catholic religion. In 1872 the island became a French penal colony, home to approximately 3,000 political deportees from the Paris Commune.

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