I have found that every venture in to the clear blue water here in New Cal has offered something different. But a few things have been constant, making the barrier reef here quite exciting.
The Grand Terre (mainland) is surrounded by its barrier reef creating a large lagoon. It’s the largest lagoon in the world I have read. The outer reef here is not far away which means it’s so accessible. Then there’s the islands within the lagoon, each with their own fringing reef. So there are so many places to snorkel and all are so close. At home the distances to our outer reef are so much greater. Many islands within the lagoon are Marine Parks which means the fish and coral are protected. Mooring buoys at these islands are common. These Marine Park islands have had abundant fish life, usually with larger more friendly fish.
Along with the distances being relatively short, the anchorages have been great. If there are no mooring buoys, we are often only anchoring in 5 or so metres and usually in sand. Great holding. There are always many anchorage options for most wind directions, either at the islands or on the mainland. We have experienced a few strong westerlies with this direction a bit trickier.
In the Whitsunday’s the cruising bible is 100 Magic Miles. Here it is the Rocket Guide which is an interactive software installed on my iMac. All anchorages are shown, including info on wind protection, snorkeling, swimming, anchoring, walks, hazards and sailing routes. It cost approx. $300 for New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Well worth it and there are no other guides available anyway.
The water clarity is also a plus. The tides within the lagoon are minimal. I think the biggest tide we have seen is 1.2m. This means you can virtually snorkel at any tide and the water is so clear.
The Southern Lagoon is at the southern tip of New Caledonia. It has many reefs and islands. While it is World Heritage listed, fishing is allowed. There are very few reef navigation markers, so fine weather is a must. The islands have soft white sand and are surrounded by vibrant coral reef gardens. We only visited three islands in the Southern Lagoon over our three months, leaving many more for our next visit!
While there weren’t many large fish at the two islands we stopped at in this visit, there was a great array of juvenile tropical fish, albeit quite shy ones. But the coral here has been amazing. Our last snorkel before we check-out next Friday was one of the best. So much vibrant, colourful coral, all colours, shapes and textures and the most clownfish I’ve ever seen.
Each snorkel here in New Cal has provided such different experiences. We’ve even got used to seeing the odd black-tipped reef shark wander by!
I hope my photos capture the colour and texture of what we saw in the Southern Lagoon. I took so many photos and I’m always happy if a get a few good ones, but there was so much to photograph here. Reducing my ‘good ones’ to a ‘few for my blog’, has been a challenge.
Clams and clownfish … there are twenty-eight different varieties of clownfish so my identification is still in the infancy stage!
The coral gardens …
And some fish …