We tentatively, cautiously, on high shark alert at all times (our neighbors in the anchorage reported two visits from a three meter tiger shark) did some exploring underwater at Chesterfield Reef.
Our bravery was beyond rewarded. In the northern anchorage, we spent an hour swimming around a large bommy 100 meters from the boat. The water was diamond clear and the bommy was swollen with coral and humming with fish of all sizes. Crimson and evergreen sea fans waved in the current.
Yesterday, we moved across the lagoon, anchoring behind a motu near the southern pass. We dove the reef system between Helios and shore, finding more thriving coral and schools of emperor fish. The best part was when a four foot turtle emerged out of the blue, swimming directly at us. He was inquisitive and friendly, coming within a few feet of us and circling back to check us out three different times. It is spectacular to encounter wildlife so untouched by humans that their response to us is curiosity instead of fear.
But not all the creatures in the lagoon are so lucky—we spotted two illegal fishing boats (we think out of China, but we spotted and cleaned up some fresh food wrappers from Vietnam on the beach) while we were in the lagoon; the vessel we saw closely was fishing with nets and had crew partially submerged in the water. We’re guessing they were capturing and finning sharks. We took photos and alerted the government in New Caledonia, who in turn have alerted their navy. So tragic to see a paradise such as this being destroyed!