18 – 22 April 2010

Dirk Fahrenbach is a dear old friend of Yogi’s. He owns and runs Dugong Dive Center in Club Paradise and we met him in Singapore during ADEX 2010.  Upon finding out what we’ve been up to, Dirk immediately asked when we were visiting him in Club Paradise.

Still too many places to go, we were literally running out of time. But reality was we were also lacking marine mammal images during this expedition. We knew we had to try to make it to Club Paradise because this could be the only place we’ll be lucky enough to find a dugong underwater. This was the very place Yogi photographed on film the much-published dugong pictures taken some 12 years ago.

So we went to Club Paradise. About half an hour away from the resort, I got a text message from Menchie, Manager of Dugong Dive Center, that Yogi must have such positive energies. There was a dugong in the house reef. It had just arrived! Oh boy. I’m getting goose pimples just remembering it.

So, we arrived sometime noon and soon after a quick reunion with Yogi’s other old friends Rolf and Menchie, I signed our dive papers and off we went diving.  There was indeed a dugong in the seagrass beds right in front of the resort. The Germans have a perfect word to call this – unglaublich! UNBELIEVABLE.

And there it was chomping away at the sea grass bed like a vegetarian vacuum cleaner

And there it was chomping away at the seagrass bed like a vegetarian vacuum cleaner

Like alfalfa sprouts, this thin seagrass is the favorite of dugongs who have to eat 35 kilograms seagrass a day

Looking like alfalfa sprouts, this thin seagrass is the favorite of dugongs who have to eat 35 kilograms of seagrass a day

The staff of Club Paradise repeatedly said we were so lucky! The last time the dugong was in their house reef was sometime mid January this year!

The dugong has a fluked tail unlike the North & Central American manatee which has a paddle tail

The dugong has a fluked tail unlike the North & Central American manatee which has a paddle tail

And after 5 minute of being an eating machine, the dugong needs to surface to take a couple of breaths

Dugongs look extremely huggable and truly adorable. Their snout looks much like a pig’s plowing away in the seagrass bed on sandy bottom

And up it goes to the surface. That was how it could be regularly spotted from the surface

And after 5 minutes of being an eating machine, the dugong needs to surface to take a couple of breaths of air

Dugongs look extremely huggable and truly adorable. Their snout is like that of a pig's plowing away in the seagrass bed on sandy bottom

And up it goes to breathe. That was how it could be regularly spotted from the surface

This dugong was not at all shy. And this is very peculiar because they ARE very shy creatures. All this dugong wanted to do was eat and eat.  And Dirk found this quite strange because the seagrass bed this summer was not abundant as last November, this being an El Niño year.

For the next two days we dived the house reef. No dugong. On our last day, we dived the house reef once more and then no more. I was cleaning our gear and it was time to stop diving to pack our things. Yogi was back into his dry clothes. Then a German lady guest in her snorkeling gear came to me and said there was a dugong in the house reef! It was close to 5 o’clock and I quickly told Yogi and Dirk.  After much deliberation (Yogi hates getting wet you see), we donned our dive gear again and went in. It was a different animal, this time with more batfish companions and more opportunistic pilot fish around its mouth.

We like to think the first dugong came to say hello and the last dugong came to say goodbye. What a trip!

Dear friend Dirk Fahrenback keeps a safe distance between himself and the dugong

Dear friend Dirk Fahrenback keeps a safe distance between himself and the dugong

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