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New Caledonia Expedition: Diving in a Place Where the Fish Have Never Seen Divers

Written by Alan Friedlander

Our dives in the Chesterfield Reefs near New Caledonia have been full of surprises. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is more surprised, us or the fish. Every time we jump in the water, we are immediately surrounded by a swarm of curious reef sharks.

Video: Crittercam POV – “Swim” with Gray Reef Sharks

It seems as though they don’t know what to make of these strange creatures and after a few minutes they conclude that we are neither predator nor prey and go about their business. However they always make an occasional drive-by just to let us know they are there and in charge of the reef.

A gray reef shark in New Caledonia.
A gray reef shark in New Caledonia. Photo by Manu San Félix.

Large groupers, some more than three feet long, come right up to us with very inquisitive looks on their face. In any other part of the world these fish would be extremely weary or on the dinner plate. Everything seems natural and in its proper place and we realize that we are just short-term visitors.

A tall sea anemone and two groupers observed in New Caledonia.
A tall sea anemone and two groupers in New Caledonia. Photo by Manu San Félix.

This is in stark contrast to what we usually experience when we go diving, where most reefs are missing many of the key components of the ecosystem and seem to lack vitality.

It is inspiring to know that places with abundant life that are dominated by large predators still exist.

A diver surveys the reef in New Caledonia.
A diver surveys the reef in New Caledonia. Photo by Manu San Félix.

These reefs are like windows into the past, but unfortunately serve as reminders for how much we have lost.

Click here to view all New Caledonia expedition blog posts.

This expedition is led by National Geographic in collaboration with the Institute de Recherche pour le Development (IRD) of New Caledonia and the Waitt Institute.

Thanks to Pristine Seas sponsors Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Comments

  1. Shanice Jones
    May 28, 11:56 am

    Its disheartening to hear about the constant degradation of the reef!!!!!!

  2. Shanice Jones
    May 28, 11:55 am

    I really find the depth of information crucial to one’s knowing about the ocean.

  3. justin montney
    mi
    May 14, 9:45 am

    awesome stuff

  4. asha
    karanataka
    May 7, 5:55 am

    Hi……..
    All photo is amazing and viedos all nice…..
    wish all the best and take ur life …..
    safe the trip ……

  5. james
    talahasse, florids
    April 6, 6:54 pm

    great picture

  6. meowmeow55
    somewhere over the rainbow
    March 23, 7:17 pm

    if you could incllude the NAME of the tall sea anemone, that would be great. i need the name for my project!

  7. Tina
    New York
    March 4, 2:27 pm

    To Boldly Go…. Fascinating!

  8. zoel
    West Java Indonesia
    February 12, 2:17 pm

    This is very interesting, my basic science is marine studies, and now i’m continuous my master in environmental science, hopefully can join with your team NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY… :) safe dive buddies

  9. Geko Dive Bali
    Padangbai, Bali, Indonesia
    January 13, 3:13 am

    Groupers can be one of the most inquisitive species when they know they are safe. I’ve dived with them in a marine park and dozens of them will come very close just to check you out. In many reefs, they are much more fearful…

  10. Erasta
    Israel
    December 29, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Hey guys thanks for the great photos! The sea anemone is actually a soft coral called “Sarcophyton” . Cheers.

  11. nathalie
    Chile
    December 5, 2013, 2:46 pm

    i’m a marine biologist and my dream is to work with you guys! excellent job!

  12. HARSHADA BHATKAR KONAR
    MUMBAI , INDIA
    November 27, 2013, 3:54 am

    HI , NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TEAM , U GUYS ARE AWSOME , HATS OFF TO YOU FOR THIS LEVEL OF INFORMATION.
    HAVE SAFE TRIP !!!
    TAKE CARE

  13. Joseph Katei
    Naivasha,kenya
    November 25, 2013, 12:43 pm

    This is amazing!

  14. Ricardo
    Mexico
    November 18, 2013, 3:36 pm

    Wow This is pretty cool

  15. Jelena
    November 12, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Awsome!!!

  16. Gabriela
    Kailua
    November 8, 2013, 1:53 am

    Hi, that is amazing coral cover, way cool!

    Wish all of you a safe trip,
    Aloha,
    Gaby