Dermott Brereton had a special visit to Sydney Aquarium, the only place in Australia where you are guaranteed to get up close to a dugong. There are just five of them in captivity in the world and Sydney has two of them a male and female, named Pig and Wuru.
They are certainly curious-looking creatures, and pirates and sailors of old thought they had found mermaids. The closest living relative of the dugong is the elephant, and the migratory animals swim the shallow coastal waters of northern Australia. They are also found in other parts of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. They seek warm, shallow water where seagrass grows.
Sydney Aquarium's 28m × 18m Oceanarium holds 1.7 million litres of water at a depth of 3.75m. It is heated to a comfortable 24°C, just the way the dugongs like it.
Sometimes called sea cows because they graze on seagrass, dugongs manage to get through 90kg of it every day. No wonder they can grow to 3m long and weigh 400kg. Despite their bulk, they glide through the water very gracefully.
Their home, Mermaid Lagoon, has proven to be a huge hit with everyone, and children are fascinated by the interactive corner of the tank. There is even a purpose-built dugong kitchen where food preparation takes place. Days are long for carers, starting at 7am and finishing at 8pm. It's funny how something so unattractive can become really beautiful the longer you watch.
Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour.
Sydney Aquarium full-day pass costs $31.95 for adults and $17.95 for children. It is open every day from 9am to 10pm.
Virgin Blue has flights to Sydney.
One-way fares from:
- Brisbane $85
- Melbourne $99
- Adelaide $129
- Darwin $235
- Perth $245
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at April 23, 2009 and are subject to change.
Prices correct at April 23, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Darling Harbour 2000
Ph: (02) 8251 7800