The Port Lincoln Sea Lions
My main purpose for a visit to Port Lincoln is to experience an animal encounter. One I can’t find anywhere else on the planet. The Australian Sea Lion is an endangered species; only around 14,000 are reported to remain, due to a history of large scale hunting, and a long and complex breeding cycle. And here, in Port Lincoln, I’ve got the rare opportunity of being able to swim with these incredible creatures.
We start our day at the Port Lincoln Marina. It’s a 90 minute boat ride with Adventure Bay Charters through the waters of the Great Australian Bight to Hopkins Island, where we anchor at the aptly named Seal Cove. Sparse and baron coastal beaches bookend rocky cliffs and hills.
For me one of the best things about this particular animal experience is that the sea lions are totally protected in their natural habitat. Our boat is required to anchor well off shore and we’re not permitted to walk on the island itself. Donning a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers, I dive into the Southern Ocean. Being a cove, the seas are calm and protected, albeit (and I do have to admit this) somewhat chilly! It’s not long before the sea lions, previously lounging nonchalantly on the beach, decide it’s time to come out and meet their visitors.
The ambivalence of the sea lions towards explorers on the island is rather amusing. There are several very distinct personalities within the sea lion colony – the younger children of the families seem to be significantly more excited, and upon spotting us, almost begd their mothers (who almost gave us the seal equivalent of “meh”) to let them go out to play. After a few minutes of what I can only imagine was a standard mother-child negotiation process, the younger sea lions waddle out along the sand, and into the water, swimming confidently towards us.
This started one of the most incredible and memorable experiences of my life. Floating in the ocean, with such personality-filled creatures swimming around you was breathtaking. The sea lions are inquisitive animals – they’ll swim up inches away from you face, and then in a split second, dart off in the opposite direction.
Their speed in the water is remarkable, they can swim up to around 30 km/hr. It’s not just a standard straight line swim either. These fellas love to show off, almost putting on a show for us – ducking and diving, spinning around in circles, and flipping up in the air performing ostentatious acrobatics.
Their curiosity is so endearing, you can’t help but swim with a huge smile on your face as they try to find out more about you. To have their gorgeous big eyes staring right at you, almost smiling, and then, at times mimicking your body movements in the water is a brilliant experience. It’s easy to get lost in the moment.
I personally feel that the sea lions treat this experience the same way we do – an opportunity to interact with another species, have fun, play around and find out about that curious-looking creature that’s suddenly appeared in the ocean. The fact this experience takes place in such a natural setting, surrounded by some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, is an added bonus.
This truly is a breathtakingly beautiful experience – something you can only experience in Port Lincoln. If you’re an animal lover, or an appreciator of the great outdoors, you cannot miss the adventure of swimming with the majestic Australian sea lion.
Located on the stunning Eyre Peninsula on the shore of Boston Bay, Port Lincoln is the self-proclaimed seafood capital of Australia. You can get there on a short 45 minute flight from Adelaide. That flight is substantial enough separation from the state’s capital city to really set itself up as an autonomous and unique region. It’s an area of the country that’s largely self sufficient, with a strong aquaculture industry, and a charismatic and effervescent community.
I’ve always associated the south of Australia with polar extremes – beautiful beaches, rolling countryside, vibrant wildlife and baron calmness. You see some of that driving through Port Lincoln. Out the right side of the car I’m surrounded by acres of beautiful countryside, farmland and majestic gum trees. On the other side, literally metres from the road, I see nothing but clear blue seas and the ocean lapping at golden sands. It’s a striking contrast that really gives the city a uniquely beautiful landscape.
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