There is something very special about the shallow lagoon sand and coral flats of New Caledonia. You'd think there would not be much of interest here and in fact very few people visit these areas. Unless it is high tide you can't even swim over the top of the coral thickets and it's about breast deep if you stand up on the soft white sand.
But this is an experience not to be missed. It is a world of sea life in miniature where, amid the branches of the corals, you see the reef fish when they are still just teeny weeny spots of color. Schools of fish - all less than 20mm long - flash just under mirror-like surface of the lagoon. They are so small even the birds ignore them. If you peer closely at a dark place on the corals and you are likely to see larvae of reef creatures that are less than a millimeter long dancing like mayflies in the prismatic flashes of sunlight. Because it is so shallow, the colors are just amazing.
There are thousands of square kilometers of these coral reef nurseries on the shoal areas around the coral islets and New Caledonia's Great Barrier Reef (the second largest barrier reef in the world). Big waves rarely reach the nurseries so the corals themselves are very delicate and beautiful. The labyrinth of shallow corals discourage reef predators from patrolling for munchies. In any case, the fish are very small and hardly worth the effort for most reef fish. Plus they are hard to catch. When anything big comes by, the tiny fish withdraw into the protective branches of the coral. And at night the fish tuck themselves deep into the coral branches to sleep.
I never could have taken this image if I was actually there myself. The fish vanish into the corals as soon as I approached. The distance from the camera to the coral thickets was about 400 mm even less on one side - there was barely room for me to set up the underwater robot camera on the sand before I swam away - looking around at all the beauty and hoping the fish would relax and come out and play as soon as they saw me leave.
According to the images captured by the robot, the little fishies worried about the camera for about 20 minutes then they ignored it. The camera was able to capture them as they hovered over the corals munching on plankton that floated by in the current or chasing each other around the coral. A couple of the fish were curious and came nice and close to the camera to have their portraits taken.
Predators do get into the nursery - like the stingray you can see munching on clams in the sand. And I did see a sea snake looking for breakfast. I also saw tiny groupers no doubt learning their predatory skills in this miniature reef world.
新喀里多尼亚是离澳大利亚和新西兰最近的南太平洋岛屿。该岛是法国领地且官方语言是法语，尽管如此，其文化却丰富多彩，揉合了美拉尼西亚、欧洲、波利尼西亚、越南、中国、印尼等国的风情。这里有一个多山的大岛，称为大地岛 (Grande Terre)，和6个较小的岛屿——洛亚蒂三岛 (Loyalty Islands)、贝莱普群岛 (Belep) 和松树岛 (Isle of Pines)。 整个群岛人口极为稀少，有大片的荒野。这里有数百公里长的徒步小径、随处可见的露营营地、超过42个公园和保护区、清澈透明的河流和莹莹闪光的瀑布。约三分之一的人口居住在首府努美阿。镍的开采是该国最主要的工业，也是维持其高标准生活的主要经济来源。大地岛四周环绕着世界第二大珊瑚礁，此珊瑚礁形成的泻湖是世界上最大的，也是受保护的泻湖。该泻湖于2008年被列为世界遗产，面积达24000平方公里，是品种丰富的鱼类和无脊椎动物栖息之地。 对于刚上岛的游客而言，最引人注目的是这里鲜艳夺目的色彩。努美阿以其完备的酒店、度假酒店、餐馆设施和丰富多彩的活动欢迎游客的到来。