A dugong nicknamed Dougie that frequents the waters of the Bundaberg Region has given underwater photographer Nigel Marsh a magical experience.
A veteran diver of almost 40 years, Nigel has dived around the world and authored more than a dozen books on sharks, shipwrecks, dive guides and children's books.
He said the moments spent with Dougie, or quite possibly Dougette, the dugong during a shore dive off Barolin Rocks was “something quite special” and the highlight of 2019 for him.
Nigel said dugongs were typically shy creatures and he was astounded by the two days of interaction he had with the marine mammal during August last year.
“Dougie, or actually quite possibly Dougette, swam around me a couple of times and then we were lying on the bottom of the ocean together,” Nigel said.
“I was very lucky, and it was definitely a highlight of my year as it was an unusual encounter, and quite magical.
“He, or she, was only about a metre away and I could have easily reached out and touched him (or her), it was very special.”
Dougie the dugong a regular in Bundaberg waters
It wasn’t the first encounter Nigel said he had with Dougie the dugong, after first seeing the marine creature in the area in 2014.
He believed Dougie could actually be a female because of its size, as female dugongs were often larger than males.
Bundaberg Aqua Scuba owner Julian Negri said it was hard to say if the curious dugong that frequented the Bundaberg shoreline was the same each time, but over the years he (or she) had become loved and known affectionately as Dougie the dugong.
Julian said Dougie showed up in the coastal waters every few months and would stick around for a day or two each time.
“This one is very inquisitive and will often get in close to my dive group to have a look at them,” Julian said.
“It’s always a great interaction and some of the divers are lucky enough to see him on their first or second dive at Barolin Rocks.”
Unique underwater experience on Bundaberg’s doorstep
Julian said the unique experience was sitting at the doorstep to the Bundaberg Region, known as the Woongarra Marine Park, and there was no need for a boat to see exotic sea animals; just step off the rocks into the pristine water.
The Woongarra Marine Park is covered in hard and soft corals including gorgonian sea fans and beautiful soft corals.
There is a range of other sea life including sea snakes, tropical fish, resting turtles, stingrays, gropers and wobbegong sharks.
Nigel agreed, saying the Woongarra Marine Park was very special — a volcanic rocky reef covered in an array of coral.
With his 40 plus years of diving around the world Nigel said the Bundaberg Region had something exceptional and it needed to be cared for.
“Shore diving in Bundaberg is fantastic,” Nigel said.
“Locals should be proud of this unique reef and try to protect it as much as they can.”
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