I was really fortunate that my good friend and helicopter pilot Olivier had the afternoon available to help me with my series of aerial sphere images of New Caledonia's fabulous lagoon. We started our afternoon flight with The Ilot Maite Marine Reserve. This small island and the very big reef around it is only a 15 minute water taxi ride from the hustle and bustle of Noumea. It is one of the very first marine reserves in New Caledonia. When the government declared it a reserve there was already a resort on the island - so the resort is still there and has, I believe, actually helped maintain the protected area.
The resort is designed for minimal environmental impact. Water and Electricity for the resort are supplied from Noumea by underwater conduits and the resort's sewage is pumped through a pipe back to Noumea for treatment. But there is another reason why I believe the resort helps protect the marine creatures - there are lots of people keeping an eye on what goes on around the island and reef so anyone tempted to spear or net some of the happy and friendly fish would be landed themselves pretty quick. The penalty for violation of the park rules is the loss of your boat and equipment plus a fine and possibly even jail time.
The Provincial Government installed moorings so pleasure boats will not drop their anchors and anchor chains onto the coral reefs. As a result, the marine life is spectacularly healthy and happy. In fact, the day before I went flying with Olivier I took an astonishing underwater sphere image nearly under where we hovered the helicopter for this image. You will see an arrow to it but unfortunately the arrow points towards the horizon, not down.
So turn the helicopter sphere image so you can see the overwater bungalows of the Escapade Island Resort, find the 8th bungalow from the wharf and then drag the sphere image straight down - you'll see the big patch reef where I took the snapper school image. While you are there, look all the way down just under the helicopter. The really big fish cruising around that boat are Giant Trevally! If you have a look at the coral reef fish image you'll see a couple of these big fish cruising around the school.
The other interesting story in this photo is that dramatic rain storm over Noumea. You can see the rain bucketing down onto the city and the squall cloud towering into the sky. On hot, summer days gigantic thunderheads build up over the mountains of New Caledonia, reaching right up into the stratosphere. By the afternoon the big billowy clouds gloom over the coast and drench anyone outdoors. But these big clouds rarely move out into the lagoon so the lovely white sand beaches around the lagoon islands are more likely to be drenched in sunlight - a point to remember should you be thinking of spending a summer afternoon at the beach in Noumea.
Noumea is the capital and vacation centre of the Islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Noumea is a "French" city, but the 91,000 inhabitants are a very mixed cultural group with French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and lots of mixtures of these. Over 60% of the population of New Caledonia lives in Noumea.Noumea is a peninsula on the southwestern end of Grande Terre and the central business district (Centre Ville) is next to one of the best natural harbours in the South Pacific. The lagoon side of the peninsula has two picturesque bays with white sand beaches and is called Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons. These twin bays are the international tourism capital of New Caledonia with hotels, restaurants and bars on the landward side of "La Promenade".First settled by the French in 1854, Noumea retains close political ties with France. It has excellent schools and public facilities - parks, recreation areas, exercise paths, schools and medical facilities. Today it is the fastest growing city in the South Pacific. There are 23 hotels in Noumea ranging from one to five stars and over 100 Restaurants.