Swimming with Australian sea lions
Swimming with sea lions was one of my bucket list items and I had the pleasure of fulfilling this dream recently with Kane and Laura from Turquoise Safaris at Jurien Bay, Western Australia.
Fitted out with wet suits, snorkels and flippers, we sailed out to Essex Rock.
We also learnt a lot about these magnificent marine mammals. The Australian sea lion is different from a seal. Sea lions have ears on the side of their head and seals ears are internal.
Sea Lions can vary from 3 – 400kgs in weight. They were once hunted for their fat. At a population estimated at around 15,000 they are listed as endangered and now protected. They can be found between Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Geraldton in Western Australia. We swam with 16 sea lions the day I visited, and sometimes there can be up to as many as 50 here. They need to eat 5-10% of their body weight per day to survive. Lobster and octopus are their favourite meal choices.
Sea lions can hold their breath between 7-17 minutes underwater, and swim up to speeds of 50kph and run on land up to 30kph. They spent 17-18 months in heat, producing one pup at a time. Once the pups are six months old they learn to swim. In deep water sharks are their natural predators. The sea lions prefer sandy shaded coves and shallow waters.
Swimming with the sea lions we were reminded that they are wild animals, and will attack humans if they are threatened. It is best to swim and admire them, but do not touch. Also, do not feed them, as they start to get aggressive.
Kane and his wife Laura really like the joyful reactions of people when they come on board. They said that Aussies are sometimes hard to impress. Aussies sometimes take this glorious backyard of theirs for granted.
Non-swimmers and people with disablilities can enjoy the experience too, holding onto the ropes and wearing life vests.
Laura maneuvered around on a paddle board and that attracted the sea lions. Kane used to have one sea lion that jumped up and laid on the board frequently with him.
Can you see the life bouy, swimmer and sea lion amongst the beautiful ocean in the photo below?
On the boat there were people from Ireland, Germany, Tasmania, Victoria and Perth. Ages ranged from 10 to 60s. Everyone had a great time and as we sailed back to the jetty everyone was talking about their awesome experience. 16 people can come aboard per trip, with up to two trips a day being made. Kane and Laura visit different islands each time.
This was a marvelous experience that I would definitely want to undertake again. How fortunate we are to be able to experience these magnificent creatures in their own environment.