Sailing from Vanuatu to Australia, you pass close to New Caledonia’s most northwest territory, which is the Huon Reefs. Together with the Merit and Guilbert reefs, Huon is one of the coral atolls that make up the d’Entrecastaux Barrier Reef Nature Reserve. The reefs are uninhabited marine preserves in absolutely pristine condition, with crystal clear water, natural white sand and abundant sea life. UNESCO declared these gorgeous examples of biodiversity a World Heritage Site in 2008 to protect the birds, turtles, fish and corals that live here. As we swam in the lagoon, we also saw good-sized bull sharks that emerged from cloudy water where the sand had been stirred up and gave me (Ellen) quite a shock.
We planned to stop at Chesterfield and Huon Reefs for just a short visit, but it was so hard to leave that we stayed longer than we planned. Without a doubt, they are some of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen – and that’s saying a lot after spending two months in the Tuamotos of French Polynesia! As our video shows, they rank right at the top of the list of most beautiful places across the whole Pacific.
The seabirds on the islands were as tame as in the Galapagos – maybe even more so, and the water was filled with turtles who were nesting during the time we were there.
The heavy females are very slow in the water as they wait for the time they want to go on the beach to lay their eggs. We didn’t approach too closely, but while the mamas float lazily by, we had an unusual opportunity to observe them from a respectful distance. As you’ll see in the video, we also had a rare opportunity to help a female who couldn’t make it back to the sea after laying her eggs, and was suffering from being exposed to the harsh sun as she waited for the next tide to come in.
Many sailors stop in these reefs without getting a permit and supposedly the patrol boats come by only very infrequently, but if you’re caught, you might be denied entry into this beautiful country for some period of time, or fined.It’s worth some trouble to be able to pay these New Caledonia reefs a visit. New Caledonia requires permission to stop there. I’ve attached the application link. Recently, New Cal changed the timing and now requires a minimum of 3 months advance notice to get a permit. Here is the announcement from the French New Caledonia government about visiting the reefs: