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Scuba Diving Ils de Pins, New Caledonia
Dive Site: Faille de Noupa
Location: Ils de Pins, New Caledonia
Depth: 11 - 45 metres (36 - 148 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres + (100 feet)
Faille de Noupa dive site is a 15 minute boat ride from the Kunie Scuba Centre at Vao. The local Melanesian inhabitants still refer to the island as Kunie, the local name of the Ils de Pins (Isle of Pines). The short journey to the site was made on an 11 metre ridged inflatable before being dropped over a large reef plateau of around 11 metres depth. At the edge of the plateau and the start of our dive the wall dropped down to a maximum depth of 45 metres where there was a sand sea floor with large coral heads. On the reef wall itself there were large red gorgonian fan corals and the viz was excellent at a good 30 metres or more. Tuna and trevally hung in the open water and dense groups of small chromis and damselfish swam all over the upper reef slopes. As we ascended the reef we drifted leisurely with the current over the plateau where there were layer upon layer of stunning blue acropora and stony corals; oranges, blues, pinks and yellows glistened in the sun which easily penetrated to 10 metres.
There was quite a surface swell, even as deep as 10 metres and as is customary on all the dives we did in New Caledonia we launched our delayed SMB from 6 metres and carried out our safety stops before ascending for the boat to pick us up.
After many of the morning dives from Ils de Pins you head for a surface interval in the 'blue lagoon', the worlds largest natural lagoon. The light blue water is almost blinding and the sheer size astounding. Whilst here, it is possible to wade from the boat to the small sandy beaches which surround the lagoon. After our morning dive at Faille De Noupe we were the first to arrive on a pristine white sand beach and I was surprised to find a perfect burgundy and white striped nautilus shell lying in the sand near the water line (these creatures inhabit depths of 150 metres and have remained virtually unchanged for over 500 million years). The guide offered to let us keep it, however I was keen to leave it where it had come to rest. After a short swim in the lagoon to cool off I returned to find it had become the property of a group of Japanese divers. More disturbing was their use for the vacated home of this deep sea fossil - an ashtray!
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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