In the shallow, warm, coastal
waters of Egypt, Hani, the dugong, swam. He tugged at the sea grasses
that grew along the bottom of the sea. He ripped them up with his chunky
teeth, chewing slowly before swallowing and ripping up more. As he held
some long shoots in his mouth, Hani looked up through the shallow water
to the surface. He liked the way the sun's rays bent at odd angles as
they filtered down under the water. It looked pretty to him.
Hani noticed something floating
above him. It was a glass bottom boat. He became curious and swam up
towards it. As he got closer, he saw that it was filled with people, a
lot of them were young children. He swam closer and closer. He came up
to the surface a bit away from the boat, as dugongs have to surface to
get air to breathe, because they are mammals. He also wanted to see what
the glass bottom boat was all about. He bobbed up and down in the sea,
making small squeaks, but the children didn't hear him. After he'd
filled his lungs with fresh air, he swam back down, and came up right
under the glass bottom.
All the people began to scream.
"Look at that ugly monster!" one little girl cried out.
"Is that a sea monster, Mamma?"
asked another child.
Eeek! It's going to eat us!"
called yet another boy.
Hani, not realizing that they were
talking about him, looked around to see where the monster was. He was
very frightened. He'd never heard of a monster being under the sea
before. The children were crying that it was ugly. He heard one child
saying that the monster had spikes coming out of its face, and was scary
Hearing this, Hani swam away and
hid behind a mossy rock at the bottom of the sea, looking all around for
the sea monster. "I wonder where it is?" he asked himself. "I don't want
it to eat me! Will it see me hiding here behind the rock? Please don't
let it eat me! Please don't let it eat me!"
After a while the boat went away
and Hani, seeing no monster, slowly swam out from behind the rock. He
checked very carefully and then went back to eating his sea grass. Now
and then he'd turn around and look, just to make sure the sea monster
wasn't lurking nearby.
Hani made his way along the sea
bottom, passing by some beautiful black coral. On the other side of it
he spotted some movement. He backed up and hid. "Oh no. What if it's the
sea monster? It will eat me! Help!" he whispered. He stuck his big round
head around a piece of the coral to see if he could see anything. Much
to his relief, he saw that it was only some scuba divers. They were
looking at the coral and bright colored fish that were darting around.
Feeling more brave, he swam back over to the sea grass and started
Still, being a curious dugong, he
kept his eye on the divers. He saw them pointing at things, and watched
them as they photographed the coral and the fish. He looked up when he
saw one of the men pointing at a stingray swimming up near the surface.
Hani smiled when he spotted an angelfish and marveled when it swam right
up to the divers and ate food out of their hands.
One of the divers stopped
photographing and looked up. He saw Hani. Suddenly he began to scream.
Quickly he swam over to the other divers and pointed at Hani. They all
mouthed the word "Monster!" them swam up to the surface. Hani began
to panic. They had pointed in his direction when they had said
"Monster!" Did that mean the monster was behind him? He turned around
quickly, but saw no monster anywhere. He was scared. He swam fast,
swishing his whale-like fluked tail back and forth, moving him down to
the bottom of the sea. He hid next to a rock. Then he turned, using his
front flippers and hid. "Where's the monster? Where did it go? I know
it's down here somewhere," he whined, turning left and right, looking
for it. "Please don't let it eat me. Please don't let it eat me," he
While he was hiding he saw a
lionfish, and a big turtle swim by. "They'd better go and hide or the
monster will eat them too," Hani feared. He watched as they swam about
the sea, not seeming to care that there was a sea monster nearby.
Hani kept hiding for a while
longer, then, seeing no monster, went back to eating his sea grass. He
always kept a watch though, just in case. When he got full, he went
up to the surface to get some fresh air. He surfaced near the docks.
There were thousands of containers from container ships, filled with
everything imaginable, stacked four or five high. There were men on the
docks working. One looked over to where Hani was and saw his face
sticking out of the water. He began screaming, "A sea monster! There's a
sea monster in the water!"
In just moments, some of the
others came running over. "What is that ugly thing? It has spikes, or
straws, sticking out of its face," one man said.
"Look at its face. It has small
eyes, and a large snout. But it sure is big and fat, and the ugliest
grey-bronze color," said another man.
Hani looked around him. He could
see no monster. He stuck his head under the water to see if it was
getting ready to eat him, but saw nothing. Hani began to wonder. "Could
it be that they are talking about me?" He swam to the left and they
followed him with their eyes. Then he swam to the right, and they
followed him again. He stopped swimming when he saw his reflection in a
container that was sitting on the dock. He realized that it was him that
they were afraid of. "I have bristles sticking out of my face. I'm kind
of fat, and kind of ugly," he added. "I am the sea monster!" he said
sadly. He bobbed up and down in the water, listening to the men on the
dock talking about him.
A few minutes later, another man
came along and saw Hani in the water. "Why, it's a dugong. How
wonderful," he said.
The other men stood still. "That's
a what?" a man asked.
"It's a dugong, or a sea cow. They
are magnificent creatures. They are also endangered, and we need to take
care of them. They are very gentle, and very precious." The man went on
to explain to the others how important dugongs are to the sea.
Hani listened carefully. "I'm a
dugong! I'm special!" Hani smiled. He felt happy. He knew that from then
on that the people would think he's nice and know he's not a monster. He
gulped a deep breath of sea air, and swam back down to the bottom of the
sea. He started eating the sea grass from the sea grass meadows. Still,
from then on, whenever he saw a glass bottom boat, or scuba divers, he
left them alone!