13 July 2018 | Baie de St Vincente, Grande Terre, New Cal.
Photo shows Saraoni once again anchored in the Southern lagoon near Isle Konduya
We finally closed the loop at Ilot Tenia on the outer barrier near Baie de St Vincente yesterday after our 500 mile leisurely perambulation around New Caledonia's largest island. It's always satisfying to circumnavigate anything large and Grande Terre was large enough for a 2 month trip with over 30 excellent anchorages.
Lovely, remote, Ilot Tenia on the edge of the barrier where we closed the loop
We arrived back in the Southern lagoon a week ago after a 60 mile sprint down outside the western barrier reef. The tip of a front emanating from a deep low passing across the Tasman to the south of us wafted through, shifting the wind from a useful north easterly back to an annoying southeasterly, but we made it back through the pass in the dark and dropped anchor in calm conditions.
Unusually calm days since have allowed us to visit normally uncomfortable coral cays like Konduya and Tenia, as well as spot marine life. We've seen dolphins and dugongs, as well as turtles in the shallow, clear water 'flying' across the sea grass beds.
Konduya Island in the Southern lagoon
An osprey on Konduya island - each cay seems to have a resident pair of ospreys
The osprey pair on Ilot Tenia
These small sacred kingfishers are common all over New Caledonia and the same species as in Australia and New Zealand.
At lovely Ilot Tenia, in almost perfect conditions we saw a 2.5m grey shark which was a little offputting. When Alison finally got into the water, she saw what she said was the biggest moray eel she had ever seen, with a head the size of a child's. She couldn't get back into the dinghy as the water was too deep, but the moray had already retreated to somewhere it too felt safe!
Best of all was an encounter with some manta rays in the Lepredour Channel. They must have been feeding on a plankton plume in the channel, accompanied by their constant companions, a bunch of remoras. Because the sea was so calm, we just dropped Saraoni's anchor and jumped in the water with the camera!
Mantas are gentle giants that just feed on plankton and do not have the potentially dangerous barb that sting rays have. We were able to get really close to the mantas who politely ignored us as they glided effortlessly through the water.
Manta feeding - note the large mouth like that of a baleen whale
Manta in the Lepredour Channel
Remoras attached to their reluctant chum
We have had almost constant internet cover here everywhere we have been. It's rather surreal when cruising in these remote lagoons reading about the chaotic events in Britain with the disastrous arrival of President Tchump. Why was he ever allowed to visit? All power to Sadiq Khan in London, Magid Magid in Sheffield, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, the baby blimp and the many tens of thousands of people who gave Tchump an unwelcome.
There is a nasty trend towards bigotry and nationalism in both Europe and the U.S. - at a time when the world is dangerously hotting up, income disparities growing and biodiversity shrinking. Humanity needs more international co-operation than ever before, not less. The recent cave rescue in Thailand was a welcome sign that people from many nations can help each other for the common good.
We are now heading back to Noumea to make plans for our trip to Vanuatu.