SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 39

Marsa Alam is famous about its rich underwater life; you may meet here huge sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and even a dugong if you are lucky. Last December we decided to spend the Christmas holiday in Marsa Alam and we hoped to meet this endangered marine mammal. The majority of Red Sea dugong sightings have been reported from the Marsa Alam region, although the population is not large: according to researches just seven dugongs reside along the 100 km long coastline between Marsa Alam and El Quesir, but sometimes visitor dugongs also can be spotted in the region. The Marsa Mubarak and Abu Dabbab are the most likely places to meet this amazing animal, they like these locations because of the relative abundance of sea grass.

Location information

The Marsa Mubarak is a bay not so far (7 km) from the Marsa Alam International Airport, also called as Turtle Bay. It is a famous spot, many snorkelers and divers come to this area to meet the huge sea turtles and hopefully the dugong as well.

Tour operators and dive centres organize Marsa Mubarak trips almost every day – but as it is an open area, you may come here private as well. The best is if you stay in the Three Corners Fayrouz Plaza Beach Resort, because the Marsa Mubarak Bay is in walking distance from the hotel.

It is a sandy beach with easy access to the water. The water is very shallow, deepens slowly and gradually, the bay is wind protected and sandy bottomed, perfect place for divers and for snorkelers at all levels.

Dugong and sea turtles

We were absolutely lucky, we saw the dugong five times in one week, so we highly suggest to visit the Marsa Mubarak if you also would like to meet this endangered marine mammal. We got the info from the local divers that this dugong is the territorial male of the Marsa Mubarak, they named him Dyson. People say the chance to spot him is higher in the afternoon, before sunset, when the bay is more quiet. That is true; we met him mostly in the afternoons, but on some other days in the mornings as well. My advice is visit the bay as regularly as you can in different times and you will spot him for sure! He enjoys playing in the shallow water, especially in the left side of the bay and feeding on sea grass. The water around him could be murky: he uses his flippers to „walk” and shake his head to remove of the sand off the grass, so he stirs up the sand.

Interesting dugong facts:

this large marine mammal called a "sea cow" as well because of its' diet of sea grass.

you can meet dugong in part of the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The population in the Red Sea was estimated about 4000 in the 1980s, unfortunately the number is probably much smaller now.

since 1990 the dugong has been on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species

they live around fifty years, an adult dugong can weigh 230-500 kg and has a length of 2.3-3 m

they can eat up to 30 kg sea grass in a single day, they favour grass is high in nitrogen and low in fibre

their average swimming speed is 10 km/h and are able to stay underwater up to 6 minutes with a single breath

an adult dugong become sexually mature at 9 years old, the mother’s gestation period is 13 months and she gives birth to just a single calf; they breed not very fast

The most interesting creature is definitely the sea cow in the Marsa Mubarak, but there are many other beautiful animals to see here! Huge sea turtles are also residents of the bay. They are as big as an adult man; search them in the shallow areas on the left side or around the orange buoy in the middle of the bay. Our favourite was the injured turtle who has only one front flipper. They say she was bitten by a shark many years ago, but adapted her handicap well and lives without problems.

We also saw leopard rays, eagle and cowtail rays, Continued on page 45

reefs on the left side and in the middle of the bay, where you will find different type of reef fish (anemone fish, parrotfish, longfin banner fish, butterfly fish etc...) blue spotted rays and even moray eels.

If in spite of all the negative events and bad media marketing you decide to visit the amazing Egypt and the Red Sea, I highly recommended the Marsa Alam region, you will not be disappointed! It is not a crowded tourist destination, rather a quiet paradise with cosy hotels and friendly people. You can spend here an unforgettable holiday, enjoy the perfect Egyptian hospitality and you will be amused by the stunning sea life. It is truly a lifetime experience to see the dugong and the huge sea turtles. They are such peaceful creatures, not scared of humans, but please always leave enough room for them to come up to the surface for air and don't touch them! Feel yourself lucky if you could see these rare, endangered animals, protect them and warn other people to do the same!