Ben van Wijnen Copyright Jan van der Meer
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).
Usually 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
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.
Resort is located at the western end of the largest island and lies
on the edge of an enchanting white sandy bay. Nestled among the tall
coconut trees are 9 rustic beach chalets that come with attached
bathrooms, hot showers and air conditioning.
The resort caters not only to divers and bird watchers but it is
also the perfect getaway for anyone who appreciates the serenity and
tranquillity of a paradise island.
To get to Mantanani, one would have to take a direct flight from KLIA to Kota Kinabalu in
Sabah. From Kota Kinabalu, make your way to Kota Belud by road, which takes
about an hour. Once in Kota Belud you would have to take a speedboat, which can
take up to another hour to get to Pulau Mantanani.