I saw them on postcards, and on the travel channel, in my wishes, and sometimes in a James Bond film.
I never really thought I’d see the real blue blues of the tropical seas as they laze near beaches and shallows and islands and deeper channels.
And then I found myself climbing on this skiboat and heading over all the blues I ever hoped I’d see, and even some that they can’t show on TV.
Lucky enough to be filming a project on endangered dugongs ( some call them sea cows, and some thought they were the sirens of old).
Pics except the dugong, are all by Thelma Roos, photographer princess of paradise. There are only about 200 dugongs left along the east coast of Africa.
There used to be thousands in these very blue waters, eating the very waving green seagrass I could see calling me under the sun shimmer of the surface.
But gill-nets, which wait all day and all night for fish to tangle within them forever, will drown a dugong in seven minutes. A dugong needs to breathe about every seven minutes.
Try to imagine being wrapped up in a net underwater and seeing the blue sky air just so near as everything takes your breath away.
Now fishermen also need to make a living and feed their families and others.
But gill-nets kill in their sleep. It might be an idea for watching over gill nets to be law, so that the fishermen could then release the dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other beautiful things of the sea when they saw their struggles.
And in some places, it is law. But who saw?
We were on and around the Bazaruto Archipelago, off the coast of Mozambique, filming the start of a project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust(EWT) to protect the remaining dugongs.
Through the kindness and forethought of Marlin Lodge, a luxury lodge on the island of Benguerra, the EWT had a base to work with the local communities, parks officials, and fishermen, to start watching over the dugongs.
Seacom, who pipe the world’s communication lines from one continent to another, underwater, also committed to funding. Good for them to give back.
We found six dugongs in our stay, all those who saw us swam away from us and our
salted and experienced guide Jose, who unfailingly found these rare creatures for us
The dugongs were right to be wary. When they hear motors, they swim as far as they can get from them.
Jose also told us of the massive supertrawlers from China that moved into the territorial waters at night, and had nets running sometimes the length of Benguerra – a few mies.
No wonder there are hardly any dugongs left. No wonder the local fishermen have to resort to gill nets. There are not many fish left. Jose pointed out the spots where fish used to teem, and catches used to bulge, a look on his faraway face that told of the emptiness.
So, what to do?
Well, the sea, as far as I’m concerned, is everyone’s, including the dugongs.
Which means no-one group can take from it the stuff we all need.
So first, speak to your town or regional political representative, even if you live miles from the sea. Ask him or her who to contact about the pillaging of your and my sea, and ask who you can write to, and demand that limitations be placed on international supertrawlers, and that they be monitored and inspected by an independent authority.
Also, donate to the Endangered Wildlife Trust http://www.ewt.org.za or other sea-life ngo that makes a difference.
And if you can afford it – visit Bazaruto, meet the local fishermen, ask them to take you on a sundowner on their dhows, rather than fish that afternoon, and pay them reasonably.
They will earn more money than they would normally, you will see great beauty, and the gill nets stay rolled up one more day. And just by visiting paradise, you’ll be bringing more income to this small economy than a few weeks’ fishing for most.
Make the difference of one day.
And enjoy the million blues.