An underwater path witness of the tremendous biodiversity of the Caledonian lagoon
It takes only five minutes to reach Duck Island, which faces the Vata Cove. Upon arrival on the islet, a trail takes visitors to a small faré (hut) where boards provide them with further information on the natural reserve of Duck Island and the underwater path. Beaconed by five buoys between 2 and 7 metres deep, this activity is accessible free of charge to all those who are eager to discover the marine biodiversity of the islet. Underwater boards provide a brief explanation on each one of the habitats visited, namely on the cohabitation between sea anemones and the clown fish (Amphiprion ocellaris), the diverse coral life, the cleaning stations as well as the sandy-muddy habitat.
A waterproof booklet presenting the easily observable species is available at various points of sale in New Caledonia and at the ‘faré’ on Duck Island, where snorkelling equipment can also be rented.
An underwater trail managed by volonteers
The marine biologist, Sebastien Faninoz and the Centre d’initiation à l’environnement (CIE, Centre of introduction to the environment) were involved in the creation of this 400m long trail. The latter organisation, which took charge of its implementation, comprises some 40 volunteers who take turns every week for eight years to inform the public, clean up the site and conduct any required works. ‘We have recently installed two information boards to prevent people visiting a protected area where grows a colony of slow-growing branched corals’, explains Cathy Le Bouteiller, an oceanographer who is delighted by the good state of these coral formations. In her capacity as coordination assistant for the CIE, she recruits volunteers whenever possible. ‘Candidates must hold a first-aid certificate and receive approval from the Vice-Rectorship to be entitled to lead groups of schoolchildren along the underwater trail,’ points out Cathy Le Bouteiller, who has recently recruited 16 candidates to perfect their knowledge of the marine habitat and show them how to maintain the underwater trail.
The activity has a long-term perspective and involves a number of volunteers. Its success is another proof that the underwater trail is the ideal tool to sensitise the public to the preservation of the biodiversity.