We boarded a high-speed catamaran (otherwise known as the Betico) at 6:45 in the morning and by 9.15 we had arrived on Ile des Pins. Though we had heard that the island was beautiful, we didn't expect anything quite so stunning. Walking in off the dock, we saw an entire school of fish in the transparent waters.
Our rental car was waiting for us and off we went to the only village on the island, Vao. Vao has a small tourist office, a local market, a bank (no ATMs), two tiny grocery stores (and I mean tiny - you can buy a tin of tuna and some long-life milk in the off chance you've just run out), a town hall, a beautiful mission church (built in 1860), an elementary school, a high school and 1800 inhabitants - pretty much the entirety of the island's population.
After a walk around the tourist office and the market (a collection of Kunie - local - women seated offering up their yams and watermelon for sale), we walked down to the Baie de St Maurice, which was where the first Catholic ceremony was said to have taken place on the island. There we found a statue of St Maurice surrounded by tree trunks carved in the form of totems - snakes, birds, turtles and human faces (as pictured above). Ah - a great mix of Catholic religion and local customs and beliefs.
Lastly, a visit to the church up the road touched us all as the locals hung long fresh garlands from the rafters and the women added bougainvilla (and other pink and red flowers) to render the garlands ever more festive for the Christmas eve mass.
Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2005.