New Caledonia, which belongs to France, is located in the Pacific, around 1300 km northeast of Australia. The six award-winning atolls with an area of almost 16,000 km² with their coral reefs and mangrove forests offer a refuge for an almost inexhaustible variety of animals and plants.
New Caledonia lagoons: facts
|Official title:||New Caledonia lagoons|
|Natural monument:||In Pacific New Caledonia, coral reefs stretching around the main island of Grande Terre and other smaller islands; next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia one of the largest reef systems in the world; six selected atolls and lagoons with mangrove forests and seagrass meadows on an area of over 15,000 km²; largely intact and untouched biosystems with an immense diversity of coral, fish and plant species, including endangered species (e.g. turtles and marine mammals, including the world’s third largest population of manatees)|
|Location:||French overseas territory New Caledonia, approx. 1,500 km east of Australia|
|Meaning:||Unique marine landscape of exceptional beauty; largely untouched ecosystem with outstanding biodiversity, including endangered animal and plant species; exceptional source for the study of biological and ecological processes as well as the natural history of the Pacific|
|Flora and fauna:||9,372 animal and plant species, including 310 different corals and 1,700 species of fish (including parrot fish, groupers, saw bass, leopard rays, reef sharks, tuna); Turtles, manatees (dugongs)|
Coral reef of superlatives
In which European country are there snow-white sandy beaches, coconut palms, crystal-clear, turquoise-green water and the second largest double barrier reef on earth? According to payhelpcenter, in France, more precisely in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. The New Caledonian Barrier Reef was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008 as the “New Caledonia Lagoon”.
New Caledonia is around 1,500 kilometers from the northeast coast of Australia. The archipelago with the main island of Grande Terre is surrounded by a unique coral reef that is around 1500 kilometers long and includes a lagoon with an area of 24,000 km²: one of the largest lagoons in the world. The world heritage includes a total of six atolls with their lagoons, mangrove forests and surrounding waters. They form a total area of 15,743 km². There are reefs in various forms from fringing reefs to atolls, a total of 146 different reef structures. Not all of these reefs are of the same age: from living to fossilized reefs, the most diverse age groups are represented. Above all, the ancient fossil reef stocks give scientists valuable insights into the natural history of the Pacific.
The New Caledonian Barrier Reef may be smaller than its Australian relative, but it is home to more coral and fish species than the Great Barrier Reef. With around 1,600 fish species, 350 coral species and 6,500 marine invertebrates, New Caledonia is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The habitats around the islands range from mangrove forests to extensive seagrass meadows. The rare dugongs (fork-tailed manatees) often graze on the latter. Green turtles bury their eggs in the sand on the beaches, while groupers, leopard and eagle rays, parrotfish, yellowtail barracudas, tuna and reef sharks cavort in the water. Lobsters, lobsters and popinées, native crustaceans, hide in the caves and crevices of the reefs.
In the reefs of New Caledonia, many different forms of coral can be discovered in a small space. Massive coral structures are repeatedly crossed by caves or crevices or form dramatic arches and bridges. Many of the caves are covered by fan corals and bog animals, in between sponges grow in bizarre shapes. Luminous corals fascinate with their magnificent colors, also diadem sea urchins with their pointed, up to 30 centimeters long spines and colorful starfish live on the reef.
New Caledonia is also worth a closer look above the surface of the water: The pristine mangrove forests on the coasts offer a home for numerous animals. The Île des Pins, a former French convict colony, describes itself as »the island closest to paradise«. With its densely forested hills, snow-white sandy beaches and the turquoise-blue, crystal-clear water of its lagoon, the island comes very close to the image of a South Seas paradise. The Loyalty Islands, especially Ouvéa, are geologically interesting: blocks of coral reefs rose there and now form cliffs up to 46 meters high on the eastern edge. And anyone who has always wanted to feel like Robinson Crusoe has ample opportunity to do so on the island’s 28-kilometer-long sandy beach.