I love sea turtles and we often see them in the New Caledonia lagoon, swimming along doing their curiously effective breast stroke. We saw two small turtles just off the beach at low tide as we walked around Ilot Kouare. They were munching on green algae that forms where the fresh-water lens seeps out into the sea. Kouare is also a bird sanctuary and there is abundant fertilizer from their droppings that provide nutrients for algae along the shore.
You can see one of these small sea turtles just off the beach. We could not get close enough to identify it. It looks suspiciously like a very young leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). These are very rare but have been reported in New Caledonia in the past. Researchers have insisted that leatherbacks do not nest on the beaches of New Caledonia but only last year one was observed laying eggs on Ilot Signal. So maybe...
Sea turtles are not easy to photograph underwater. They are justifiably scared out of their wits when a human approaches.
I did get one nice sphere image of one of New Caledonia's resident sea turtles in the Ilot Maitre marine reserve but the moment I moved towards this little fellow he (or maybe she) took off at top speed.
Everybody knows sea turtles are endangered after centuries of being hunted and slaughtered when they crawled up on beaches to lay their eggs. Since 1986 the four species of sea turtles that live in New Caledonia have been protected from 1 November until 31 March and it is illegal to destroy nests of marine turtles at any time or to take, keep, or sell their eggs. New Caledonia law also forbids importing, offering for sale, selling, buying or exporting of marine turtles (alive or dead) or of any marine turtle parts or sub-products obtained from them.
In the Northern Provence of Grande Terre, sea turtles are protected all year long, but in the Southern Provence, sea turtles are only safe from November through March and in lagoon island marine reserves - like this reserve at Ilot Kouare.
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.