Ben van Wijnen
van der Meer Video Zandvoort
|The dugong (sea cow) where you is
could swim with, is no longer at Pulau Mantanani.
I hope he's in search for better grass somewhere else, but it
could also be that he's dead.
If you want to make this excursion, you'd better ask, whether the
dugongs are back or not.
is a group of three isolated islands northwest of Kota Belud, 80 km north of
Kota Kinabalu. It was so isolated in fact that not until recently, only a few
locals knew the existence of the islands.
But most popular attraction of Pulau Mantanani are the dugongs
(sea cows). Here you can swim with them.
The island is virtually unknown to most people, although
the indigenous Ubian fishing tribe here have for years sighted dugongs.
The sheltered bays around the Mantanani Islands seem to provide the ideal habitats for dugongs. Sea grass beds
are found on shallow sandy areas within the encircling fringing reef of the
islands. A small human population has caused minimum pollution and there is
little noisy boat traffic.
Near Mantanani Islands many local
fishermen have seen dugongs for as long as they can remember, although
the sightings are less frequent in recent times. Fortunately, the local
people are not used eating dugongs.
The dugong (Dugong dugon) is endangered by hunting (men and
sharks) and by
destruction of its natural habitat.
In many regions worldwide dugongs are facing the threat of extinction,
and it is likely that this is also the case in Sabah.
In the World Conservation Union Red Data book dugongs are listed as
"vulnerable to extinction" and the international trade in dugong
artefacts has been prohibited in the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species.
The most famous dugong is Nicky, a young male dugong who frequents the warm tropical waters
around the Mantanani Islands. Nicky gets his name from the small cut or
"nick" in his left tail fluke, and this is the way you can recognize him. He is a
juvenile male of about 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length - he still has much growing
to reach maturity (mature dugongs are up to 3 meters or 10 feet long).
you can see Nicky alone, although there are other dugongs in the vicinity.
Sometimes you can see a
mother and her calf.
Copyright Jan van
der Meer Video Zandvoort
Dugongs are often called sea cows due to their large size and
herbivorous nature. While they may consume over 15 different species of sea
grasses, their preferred varieties (which are found in abundance on Mantanani)
are species of the genera Halodule and Halophila. Dugongs consume vast
quantities of sea grass: a fully-grown dugong will eat up to 35 kg per day, a
tenth of its body weight. As they pluck up the sea grass, the dugongs leave
tell-tale meandering paths of white sand in their wake -- a feeding trail.
Dugongs do not consume the blades of the grass alone, but pluck up the
nutritious rhizomes, or roots, growing under the sand. Since they require such
large quantities of sea grass each day, they may have to move between feeding
sites allowing grazed areas to regenerate. Despite their large dimensions of
over 3m in length and 350 kg, dugongs can reach top speeds of 25 kmh. The
average cruising speed of 10 kmh can be sustained for long periods and the
dugong may travel for hundreds of km in just a few days. The pectoral flippers
are used for steering and braking, and also for sculling to keep the head above
water when it breathes in choppy seas.