When I took this image of the white tip shark, Triaenodon obesus, it was about one metre from the camera lens. It looks big because it was so close, but was only about 1.4 metres long. Normally these sharks are kind of hard to get close to - at least on normal terms. One can get a lot closer when feeding them - but that's one thing I don't get involved with; feeding them with bait or feeding them with parts of myself.
I have to admit that I don't think sharks are cuddly creatures. I don't trust them. They have a chilly, unintelligent persona and I don't feel comfortable taking my eyes off one when I see it in the water. They normally reciprocate the feeling (humans are a lot more dangerous than sharks) so we tend to go our separate ways pretty quick if we happen to meet unexpectedly. But this shark was apparently unaware of what I was and seemed quite comfortable hanging around. In fact 3 or 4 of its mates were hanging around, too. They were not sure of what kind of creatures Freddy and I were because we were wearing our stunning zebra-striped leotards. You can see Freddy in hers, swimming up the coral gully on the reef behind the shark.
The sharp, high contrast pattern of these leotards confuse our normal human shape in shark eyes (also in fish-eyes) and the reef creatures are a whole lot less worried about us than when we look like a normal human killer fish. The suits also have the benefit (if you call getting close to sharks a benefit) of protecting our tender skins from the sun, the occasional jellyfish or stinging coral. It even holds a little body heat.
For more about diving and snorkelling spots in New Caledonia's fabulous lagoon, check out the cruising guide to New Caledonia.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.