Guide to hotels, flights, diving, excursions and more.
Marsa Alam Dugongs ( sometimes spelled Dugon )
The dugong is a large marine mammal, sometimes called a "sea cow" because of its' diet of sea grass. It lives in parts of the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is similar to the Manatee, the main difference being that the latter can also be found in the estuaries of fresh water rivers.
The world population of dugongs is believed to be in decline and the species has disappeared altogether from many of its former known marine habitats near Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Mauritius, Philippines and Japan.
IS THE SPECIES ENDANGERED ?
Since 1990 the dugong has been on the IUCN's red list of threatened species as being considered vulnerable to extinction.
HOW LONG DOES A DUGONG LIVE ?
Around fifty years as an average. The oldest know Dugong lived 73 years.
HOW MANY LIVE IN THE RED SEA ?
In the 1980s the Red Sea dugong population was estimated at about 4000. However that number is probably now much smaller.
WHAT MAKES MARSA ALAM SPECIAL
FOR THE DUGONG ?
The majority of Red Sea dugong sightings have been off the coast at Abu Dabbab, a sandy bottomed lagoon about 30km north of the town of Marsa Alam. Dugongs like this location because of the relative abundance of sea grass.
HOW MANY DUGONGS LIVE OFF MARSA ALAM ?
The dugong population is not large. Just seven known dugongs reside along the entire 100km coastline between Marsa Alam and El Quseir although actual numbers could be higher and Abu Dabbab is the most likely place to see one.
IS THE MARSA ALAM POPULATION THREATENED ?
Yes, herbicidal run and pollution from some of the hotels in the Marsa Alam region may be reducing numbers. They are also at risk from fishing nets and some tourists who may inadvertently damage the marine habitat. They are also vulnerable to hunting since they live in relatively shallow water and are not scared of humans.
WHAT CONVERSATION MEASURES HAVE BEEN TAKEN ?
Boats are not allowed inside Abu Dabbab Bay and moorings have been removed to prevent overnight stays by safari boats. The sea grass area is now off limits to divers and snorkellers and rangers regularly patrol the bay to enforce the environmental regulations.
WHAT DOES THE DUGONG EAT ?
Mostly sea grass. When they eat, they ingest the entire plant including the roots. They prefer to avoid the lush grass and concentrate their feeding on areas where the sea grass is more sparse. They favour grass high in nitrogen and low in fibre. The sea grass if of low nutritional value so the dugong has to eat vast amounts - up to 30kg in a single day. They use their flippers to "walk" along the seabed and shake their heads to remove some of the sand off the grass.
HOW BIG IS A DUGONG ?
Adult dugong can weigh between 230 and 500kg and have a length of between 2.4 and 3 metres. However their brain weighs 300g - just one thousandth of their body mass !
ARE DUGONGS EATEN BY SHARKS ?
It is thought that sharks usually only attack young dugong. It's not known how many young dugongs are lost to sharks but it is thought that man made pollution, fishing and hunting represent a much bigger threat to the dugong population.
HOW LONG CAN THEY STAY UNDERWATER ?
As a mammal, a dugong breathes oxygen but can remain underwater for up to six minutes before needing to surface to breath but their dives typtically last between one and three minutes. This is not long by comparison with whales and dolphins than can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes or longer. It also makes them relatively vulnerable to hunters.
HOW FAST DO THEY SWIM ?
Their average swimming speed is about 10 kilometres per hour (6mph) but they can attain speeds of up to 22 kilometres per hour (14mph).
HOW FAST CAN THEY BREED ?
Not very fast. Adults are at least nine years old before they become sexually active and the mother's gestation period is thirteen months at the end of which she usually gives birth to just a single calf. So even in ideal conditions the dugong population would only be able to grow at a rate of five per cent per annum from their present very low levels.
CAN I ADOPT A DUGON ?
Yes, through the World Wildlife Fund. More information at WorldWildlife.org DID YOU KNOW ?
Dugongs are thought to have been the inspiration behind ancient mariners' tales of mermaids and they are also closely related to elephants.
Can I catch a taxi to see a dugong ?
If you need a cheap limousine, taxi service,
minibus or car rental at any time
The price for a one way journey between your hotel and Abu Dabbab, home of the dugong, should be given on the taxi prices page.
No need to pay a deposit as you can pay when you are picked up.
Steven has many types of car as well as people
carriers available in Marsa Alam, Hurghada,
Luxor, Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh.
MARSA ALAM DUGONG YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Abu Dabbab Dugong feeding and swimming
August 2006 - 4 minutes - over 180,000 views.
Dugong's surprisingly graceful sea "dance".
November 2006 - 1.32 minutes - over 74,000 views.
Dennis the dugong at Abu Dabbab
December 2008 - 3,45 minutes - over 53,000 views.
Diver follows feeding dugong off Marsa Alam.
September 2009 - 2.40 minutes - over 67,000 views.
Short Polish documentary on Abu Dabbab's dugong
February 2008 - 3.37 minutes - over 72,000 views.
MORE DUGONG YOUTUBE VIDEOS
This dugong animation clip will amuse your children.
June 2008 - 49 seconds - over 3.5 million views.
National Georgrahic documentary on environmental hazards facing the dugong off Abu Dhabi.
June 2012 - 4.53 minutes - over 27,000 views.
Orphaned dugong rescued in Australia.
August 2011 - 2 minutes - over 30,000 views.