This is a lush, thriving coral reef near Ilot Mbe Kouen, just inside of New Caledonia's Great Barrier reef. It is a super dense thicket of coral branches, mostly formed by several species of the genus Acropora.
At low tide, the tips of the coral branches come out of the water. We waited until mid-tide to explore it. We carefully swam over the thickets, sometimes just belly deep, and I was delighted to find little pockets here and there where the water was deeper and often filled with other species of corals.
It was, probably, the other species of corals that kept the Acropora from filling in those areas, too. Corals do fight for their territory, but it is a very slow battle and one you would not be likely to witness unless you went swimming here at night with a powerful magnifying lens.
I tried very hard to capture the feeling of discovery and delight these scintillating tide-pools of coral gave me. The only thing I can compare the feeling to was the laughing childhood wonder of looking into a sugar Easter Egg and seeing a small scene of springtime inside. I took sphere images of many of these coral Easter Eggs from different angles, from the edge of the thickets and the center of the pools, but could not quite capture what I felt. This one came closest and I hope you can see the delight and beauty as I did.
If you really want to experience this delight as I did, come see it yourself. Download a copy of the Cruising Guide to New Caledonia or the Rocket Travel Guide to New Caledonia to find out just how to do it.
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.