About 40 km southeast of Noumea Ilot Mato Anchorage marks the entrance into the vast southern coral reef lagoon. Part of the New Caledonia World Heritage Site, the southern lagoon is a vast area of coral reefs and isolated small islands.
The corals are vibrantly alive and teem with brilliantly colored coral fish. A school of batfish, Platax teira, milled around as I took this underwater panoramic sphere photo. In areas of the New Caledonia Lagoon World Heritage Site that are totally protected against any kind of fishing the fish are often very tame and allow a photographer to get images that are impossible to obtain just about anywhere else. Unfortunately this part of the reef is still open to fishing - even spearfishing and tropical fish collecting - so the fish tend to move off quickly when a diver comes by.
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.