Snorkelling in Ile des Pins

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Our trusty crew, Ellen and Ian, have been enjoying exploring the reefs and bommies in both Kanumera Bay and Kuto Bay (not far from where ADAGIO is anchored). They travel ashore nearly every day aboard ADAGIO’s inflatable Clear Blue Hawaii kayak. It gives them the freedom they need to explore the area.

I finally could tear myself away from chores aboard ADAGIO for a snorkeling adventure in Kanumera Bay. The reefs surrounding the small Islet are mostly healthy, branching coral, with some quite large hemispheres of brain coral here and there. Some soft, fan corals as well. Many types of fish were busily feeding throughout the water column, and curiously approach our dive masks. Billowing Anemones, some blue and lavender, in which anemone fish nestle and appear to caress themselves among the tentacles, were abundant in open areas among the branching coral. Each time we snorkeled, we swam among a tight school of thousands of 3 inch long silver Pilchard-type fish, just under the surface of the water. They were not skittish, but morphed their school to surround us on all sides, as we approached. It is an amazing special effect to feel part of the spinning, glinting, silver circle of fish.

In Kuto Bay, near ADAGIO, the first fish we encountered were large schools of powder-blue Damsel fish, slowly feeding as they milled around above the coral, ready to dive for cover between the coral branches. The Anemone fish in Kuto Bay are of two major types, Clark’s anemone fish (Amphiprion clarkii), clown-painted with two light blue vertical stripes on a dark orange ground, and Red and Black anemone fish (Amphiprion melanopus), sporting one wide, iridescent blue vertical stripe just aft of its eye, on a multi-hued orange ground. Both were beautiful, each living with a different type of anemone. I made an effort to take most of my underwater photos at the top of the reef where the water was most shallow and the sunlight was brightest, and that is were the anemone fish lived. We located one of the Lion fish that Ellen had found the day before, when she counted six Lion fish, out in the open. When we returned we found only one of them, tucked into a crack in the reef. Still, I was able to dive down and get a photo. There were many, many other types of fish, and we are slowly learning their names. One of our identification books notes which type of fish are sometimes toxic or reputed to carry ciguatera in New Caledonia.

Steve has put together some marvelously effective presets in Lightroom software to bring out the best in the photos that I took underwater. He has removed the murkiness and restored the colors and contrasts, to bring out the images that I actually saw.

Today at the early morning fish market we identified many of the larger fish that we had seen as we were snorkeling. The locals have been dining on their reef fish for many years, but we only bought the fillets of an ocean-going pelagic fish. However, it is an interesting way to learn to identify reef fish — by examining them in the fish market, where the name of each fish is written on the glass above it, in French.

On the other side of the coin, there are numerous “celebrations of the ocean”, conservation efforts, conservation education activities, and numerous organizations which do not hesitate to point out polluters and reasons why there are environmental problems in New Caledonia, as well as remediation programs.

Paradise discovered is not necessarily Paradise Lost.

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