Asia Going...Gone! Oceania

4 Places to See the Humble Dugong

Occasionally mistaken for a particularly portly bottlenose, the charmingly placid Dugong is a fascination for many aquatic enthusiasts, though hardly the life of the party. While whales, seals and dolphins will frolick alongside the sterns of sea-slicing ships, the humble though extraordinary sea cow is shy, preferring quiet luscious underwater meadows and warm, shallow waters. Dugongs are fascinating and strangely adorable, powering their porpoise like bodies through the water with paddle flippers, snuffling the ocean floors with a nimble upper lift and elongated trunk – while the dolphin family is represented by its fluke tale, colour and flippers, the Dugongs closest relative tramps the savannahs Africa and the jungles of Asia; Dugongs are the oceans answer to the majestic elephant. Seeing these wondrous creatures in the wild can be a challenge, as their greatest threats are seacraft, fishing industries and pollution produced by our industrialised societies. Being aware of these factors will allow you to make ethical choices when locating a Dugong diving vessel in the following locations:
Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay is the home to over 10% of the world’s Dugong population, attracting several hundreds of thousands of these glorious creatures. The Australian Department of Environment and Conservation have restricted access to a zoned area, cultivating a safe and thriving environment for the myth inspiring Dugongs (mermaids, where did they come from?). The Aristocrat 2 is an environmentally friendly craft, disturbing the environment only once a day to immerse visitors in a peaceful habitat, thick with sleek bodies and vegetation. Enjoy a beer, wine or water, as you observe the peaceful vegetarians of the deep.

Australia is also home to the humble Dugong. Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Australia is also home to the humble Dugong. Image courtesy of Gualberto107/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Epi, Vanuatu
The luxurious, languid beaches of Vanuatu mask a trove of pleasures, from snorkelling to scuba diving. Beneath the turquoise waters, a menagerie of sea life waits, from colourful fish, incredible eels, graceful turtles to sharp-toothed shark and the peaceful Dugong. Lamen Bay is the favoured hang out of Bondas, the socialite of the local sea cow population, flirting with travellers and locals alike – it may be the one occasion you’ll be able to touch a Dugong in the wild. Don’t be dissuaded if he isn’t around though, even happy-go-lucky Dugongs need time away from the thrilled squeals and strange squeaks of humanity.
Con Dao National Park, Vietnam
Vietnam is a cautionary tale in the hunting of Dugongs; once a densely populated region of the ocean, the Con Dao archipelago is the only place where Dugong appear in abundance. Though their numbers are growing due to active conservation of Con Dao National Park, it is difficult to capture more than a glimpse, as small grouping and solo swimmers are more likely to scatter than their Australian cousins.
Sea Life, Sydney Aquarium
Taking the boat back Down Under, Sydney Aquarium offers a guaranteed sighting and a safe environment for punters to observe Pig and Wuru in captivity; a rare and amazing honour, as there are only six Dugongs in aquatic tanks worldwide. The every hungry Pig went through a spot of bother when he was younger, rescued after becoming separated from his mother; although staff worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the precocious Pig, his release didn’t go plan, soon beaching himself again and ending up in the tanks of Sydney. A match made in Dugong heaven, Wuru is another orphan, saved from succumbing to an unforgiving ocean – visit myfun.com.au for my information.
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By Jessica Hannah

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