THERE IS a legendary sea creature who seeks tranquillity in the shallow, protected, sub-tropical waters of Keppel Bay off the Capricorn Coast. 

Capricorn Enterprise CEO, Mary Carroll says that now is the perfect time to plunge into our pristine Southern Great Barrier Reef and take your chance on meeting our mysterious 'lady of the sea'. 

"She is shy and bashful, a voluptuous 400 kilos worth of HUGE, but extremely friendly," Ms Carroll said.

"Although she is elusive, when you snorkel or dive around any of the 17 magnificent Islands within the Keppel group, you might just be lucky enough to come face to face with one of these extremely special mammals." 

 

Dugong at Great Keppel Island
Dugong at Great Keppel Island Pacific pixels

The dugong is a distant relative to the elephant and has inspired many ancient mermaid folklores. With a beautifully streamlined body, fluked tail and shy temperament, it's easy to see how lonely seamen - perhaps after too many rums - mistook them for majestic aquatic goddesses. 

Gliding effortlessly through the seagrass meadows found on the inside edges of Great Keppel Island, the dugong herd uses their big squarish pig-like snout to snort approximately 30 kilograms of seagrass each day. 

The act of fleecing seabeds in order to surpass their massive appetites contributes to our living, underwater ecosystem.

Impressively, dugong leave their grazing table in an even healthier state than before.

 

Dugong and Calf at Great Keppel Island
Dugong and Calf at Great Keppel Island Pacific Pixels

When feeding, dugong help to release micronutrients from the seabed, making healthy and nutritional tucker more accessible for small fish.

Her constant browsing of seagrass encourages grass regrowth - ensuring critical habitat and feeding sites for a host of other marine species including turtles, dolphins and sawfish. 

So, in fact, our gentle marine herbivores, who live the simplest of lives, are the best caretakers of our local seagrass habitats and the animals residing in them.

Where there is dugong, there is a healthy ocean and reef. 

Living a similar life span to humans (approximately 70 years), dugong are slow breeders who may produce a calf every three to five years.

With pregnancies ranging between 13 and 14 months, female dugongs commence having their babies between six and 17 years of age. 

Because breeding occurs few and far between due to calves nursing for 18 months or longer following gestation, the patient gentlemen are always waiting for their ladies to be 'ready' to reproduce.

Unfortunately, due to their low breeding rates and dependence on seagrass, Dugong distribution has declined around the world and the population living on the vast and diverse Great Barrier Reef may be one of the largest remaining. 

"Around the world, Dugongs have been hunted to near extinction, but are now protected under various pieces of legislation, including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975," said Ms Carroll.  

"To see dugongs in their natural element is an extremely special experience and if by chance you are lucky enough to spot our Keppel beauties, we guarantee you will be smiling from ear to ear!"

Jump on board a ferry to Great Keppel Island with Freedom Fast Cats, Keppel Konnections or take an exhilarating and scenic adventure with Keppel Explorer. 

Stay for the day or take a longer break at Great Keppel Island Hideaway or Great Keppel Island Holiday Village.

Hire everything you need for your dugong adventure or book a snorkel or dive at Great Keppel Island Watersports and Activities.

5 fun Dugong facts

1. You can estimate a dugong's age by how many rings they have on their tusks - just like a tree

2. Dugongs breathe in oxygen from above the surface of the water and can hold its breath for us to 11 minutes

3. Dugongs can dive up to 33 metres to graze on their favourite cuisine - seagrass

4. Dugongs don't have terribly good eyesight, but make up for it with excellent hearing

5. Dugongs communicate using chirps, squeaks, trills and other sounds that can travel through water