Ilot Mbe Kouen is just 12 nautical miles west of Noumea, New Caledonia. It is a tiny lagoon islet - mostly sand - surrounded by magnificent coral reef gardens. The anchorage is one of the most protected anchorages close to the New Caledonia Barrier Reef and it is a popular place during weekends and holidays. This image was taken on Easter weekend and more than 30 boats were lounging in the anchorage while the owners and their families cavorted on the white sand beach or snorkeled on the reefs. At low tide the coral garden in this image comes right out of the water and the corals can be exposed to the air, sun and rain for several hours.You can only snorkel over it at high tide.
I was wonerstruck at the density and variety of living corals. Truthfully I didn't expect it to be so healthy as most reef-tops are either old dead coral rock or small clumps of living corals struggling in a ruin of dead and broken coral - either from big waves smashing down on the reef top or people grazing on the reef at low tide, breaking the coral to find sea shells, octopus, or just clomping around for the fun of it.
This reef is protected from big waves by the barrier reef and as the whole area is within the network of marine reserves so the holliday makers have learned to be careful of the reefs.
I was delighted with this sphere image - it really gives you the feeling of what it is like to snorkel here, being able to see the corals and look up to check on the location of the dinghy or the island. My little GoPro Hero3 Black did really well.
Freddy and I wandered all over in the coral gardens, ooing and ahhing and taking photos of the swarms of fish we came upon. It was so beautiful we stayed in until the tide forced us out and we slithered, shivering and waterlogged, back into the dinghy.
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.