New Caledonia: Great South Lagoon
At the southern tip of Grande Terre in New Caledonia, the Great South Lagoon is certainly an unspoilt jewel in the heart of the pacific. Named as one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008 because of their incredible biodiversity, the Great South Lagoon has a unique crescent shape with two distinct parts: the East part and the South corner. Here, we explore these marine marvels just a few dozen miles from Nouméa in more detail.
The coral paradise
The lagoons of New Caledonia are mainly famous because they offer divers an endless playground for wilde life. The six marine zones created by these lagoons cover over 40,000 square kilometres and are home to the second biggest coral barrier in the world, which is 1,600 kilometres long. While only 1.5% of the world’s coral reefs remain unspoilt, a third are in this area. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or the huge reef in Hawaii, it hasn’t been affected by coral bleaching. This means that today over 400 coral species cover the area, giving an abundance of colours to the Caledonian sea bed.
Iconic species and other wildlife you might encounter
With the lagoons becoming UNESCO sites, the New Caledonian government created the Natural Park of the Coral Sea. Covering an area bigger than mainland France, it is one of the largest in the world. With species thus protected, many have been able to live here happily.
As the most common species in the Caledonian lagoon, the green turtle is a sacred symbol for the Kanaks, a local community and the dugong, or sea cow, is also an original animal to encounter. This close cousin of the manatee is the only herbivorous marine mammal. The Great South Lagoon is also home to a species of shark that has never been seen anywhere else.
But it is really the whales and dolphins that take centre stage in this region. Pods of dolphins can playfully swim alongside ships and sometimes humpback whales might make an appearance too. Both species are attracted by the cool waters (22°C) in the Great South Lagoon and find this the ideal environment for their breeding season. The population has been increasing constantly since 2005.
If this blog post has inspired you to explore this area of exceptional beauty, you can find our expedition cruises to the region here.
Please note that the exact itinerary of your cruise and the places you visit vary from day to day as we are at the mercy of weather and ice conditions. Therefore, landings on certain sites and the observation of wildlife cannot be guaranteed. The Captain and the Expedition Leader will make every effort to ensure that your travel experience is as rich and unique as possible, whilst complying with safety rules and instructions imposed by local authorities. All images in this blog post are used for illustration purposes only and may not reflect actual sights.