I have said it before and stand by the statement, swimming with Australian Sea Lions is single handily the most interactive wildlife experience I have ever encountered anywhere. It is such an incredible privilege to be able to swim with this endangered species in their own natural environment, being welcomed into their home like long lost friends. There is something special about coming face to face with a wild animal that is not immediately afraid of human presence but curious and more than anything else, interactive and friendly. Honestly this is something you must experience.
Jamie from Adventure Bay Charters getting some time in viewing the world upside down and under waterThe Australian Sea Lions are a very interactive species spending a good chunk of their day playing and socializing amongst one another, especially around teenage or adolescent years. There are an estimated 12,000 left in the wild with the majority of the population living in colonies scattered along the coastal islands between South and Western Australia. There are two places specifically along the Eyre Peninsula where groups of juveniles congregate and ‘hang out’, Hopkins Island off Port Lincoln and Baird Bay near Streaky Bay. Both of these areas are protected wilderness reserves where the Sea Lions can take refuge from the open ocean and easily rest while socializing and learning with one another in calm and shallow waters.
We have the opportunity at both Hopkins and Baird to actually get in the water and swim about with the Sea Lions and I cannot stress how wonderful of an experience it is. The Aussie Sea Lions are incredibly interactive with humans. They roll and toss and tumble in the water, throwing back flips and summersaults, swimming around keen snorkelers like haywire torpedoes. They then stop and look at you with giant puppy dog eyes almost wondering why you look so funny and can’t move as fast as they can. It is truly one of the most overwhelming senses of pure interaction with wildlife.
The Sea Lion colonies at Hopkins and Baird have been visited by humans for upwards of 15 years with daily tourism only really getting its feet off the ground within the last 5. Both opportunities to swim with the Sea Lions are sold as half day trips with about 30 minutes to an hour in the water. The seals actually recognise the calls of the guides and it is amazing to watch them run off the beach towards the boat as it pulls in to anchor. A huge part of this action is trusting the human interaction and knowing that we are not there to hurt them nor a threat to their home. It is amazing to see such undeniable trust in a wild animal.
Swimming with the Australian Sea Lions is also a great example of a sustainable tourism platform. There is no feeding or ‘tricking’ the Sea Lions into interacting with the tourists, there are no hidden surprises, what you see and understand is what you get. The tours are all run in an incredibly informative matter with the guides sharing a wealth of knowledge on the local area, seal stats, conservation methods, and general dos and don’ts regarding the swim. It is a simple, well run, and richly rewarding trip. If you ever find yourself in South Australia I highly suggest adding swimming with the Sea Lions to your travel itinerary.
In conclusion, the only other wildlife encounters that I can think of which come close to swimming with the Sea Lions are visiting Mountain Gorillas in the Virungas, swimming with Bottlenose Dolphins (Kangaroo Island), snorkelling with Whale Sharks (Isla Mujeres or Western Aus), viewing Lions and Elephants and all other African Safari animals, Chimpanzees in Uganda, etc. etc. you get the idea. Now that being said, interaction is key, and I truly believe that swimming with Australian Sea Lions is something unique and yet to be rivaled by any other wildlife experience I have ever had. I hope you enjoyed the video and liked this post.
What is your most memorable and interactive Wildlife Encounter?