Swimming with Large Sea Mammals

Trip Start Oct 09, 2007
Trip End Oct 20, 2007

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Monday, October 15, 2007

To break the boredom and to get out a bit we decided to pay about $100 and go to a small bay about 1.5 hours south of Al Quseir.   The highlight is the opportunity to swim with turtles and maybe see a real live Sea Cow (or Dugong in German).  It is a bit late in the season to see the Sea Cow, no one has seen him for the past 10 days, but we may get lucky.
We woke up early to be on the small bus by 8 am .  With us were 9 other Germans, some who were snorkeling and some who were scuba diving.  We drove through the desert and arrived at another hotel.  We got out of the bus and set up on the beach and immediately jumped into the water. 
The bay at Marsa Alam is one of the few sand beaches in the area.  We were able to walk right into the water.  In the middle of the bay is a large area of sea grass.  I was expecting tall grasses, but it was really short grass that the turtles and sea cow eats. 
Immediately we found the turtles!  There were 3 very large sea turtles.   They would eat on the sea floor and then come up for air every few minutes.  When they would come up for air we were able to get close to them.  We were close enough for them to look at us, turn and dive in the opposite direction.  Each turtle had about 3-6 fish that would attach themselves to it.  At one point one turtle took a break from eating to spin in a few circles and try to get these fish off.  We were out there watching and swimming with the turtles for about an hour before I got cold and we had to go back in.
After a short break (and a good rest in the sun) we wanted to explore the reef on the edges of the bay.  We took off towards the left and saw many of the same fish again, but added an adult Lion Fish to our list and a baby Carpet Crocodile Fish (direct translation from German, Teppich Krokodilsfisch).  I started to get cold again and suggested that we swim through the bay to get back to our towels.  
As we were swimming Alex stops and brings his face out the water, "It's the Sea Cow!  I see it!"  We darted off toward the animal, but were disappointed to only find a Sea Turtle.  We laughed off our mistake and our heart rates returned to normal as we headed back towards the shore.  Then we ran into a snorkel-er and he motioned for our attention and started pumping his hands up and down, as if he was milking a cow.  We swam in the direction he was pointing and sure enough, the sea cow!  We were the luckiest people ever.
The Sea Cow is just like a Manatee, only the tails are a little different.  The Sea Cow's tail is just like a dolphin's tail.  It was the most amazing thing.   The sea cow would eat the sea grass on the floor just like a vacuum cleaner and then come up for air every 10 minutes or so.  He would wave his tail once or twice and just rise up to the top of the water and we would be swimming our hearts up to keep up.  We were so close that we could have touched him and we could see his nostrils opening up to get air at the surface.  He would get his air, turn and go back to eating.  It was awesome!
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