Scuba Diving Photos
Diving With Australian Sea Lions
The Australian sea lion is a pinniped most closely related to other species of sea lions and the fur seals. Pinnipeds, often generalized as seals, are a widely distributed group of semi-aquatic marine mammals.
A few months ago, I joined a two-night great white shark expedition in South Australia with Rodney Fox Sharks Expedition. I was, of course, thrilled to finally encounter those beautiful apex predators, but what I was the most excited about was the scheduled stop at Hopkins Island to swim with Australian sea lions.
With fewer than 15,000 individuals in the world, the Australian sea lion is one of the rarest species in the world and they are listed as endangered by the IUCN. They are endemic to Australia and about 80 percent of the population can be found in South Australia and the other 20 percent in Western Australia.
A few of my friends had had the opportunity to swim with them previously and raved about how playful and beautiful they were and how being in the water with them rated as one of their best underwater memories.
I could not wait to meet them!
I was all geared up and ready to go before the boat even stopped! The plan was to drop us in a shallow sandy section in front of the island and we were told to swim around the corner towards the rocks and grassy area. We were asked not to get close to shore or go on the island. We were also reminded that sea lions are wild animals and that we should not touch them.
We all jumped in, and it didn’t take long before one curious sea lion came to us as if to greet us. This species of sea lion is the cutest I have ever seen. Big puppy eyes, small tightly rolled external ears, and a beautiful coat colour (the males have a chocolate-brown fur with mane-like yellow areas on the neck and top of the head, whilst females are silver-grey to fawn above and cream underneath).
After a few graceful swirls around us, it swam away towards the rocks and we all followed. And then started one of the best hours of my life! Within minutes of reaching the grassy area, I could see several little heads popping out of the long grass, or from behind the rocks, looking back at us. At first they seemed a little bit unsure about us, and watched us from a distance. And despite my best efforts to slowly sneak around them, they always swam away at the exact time I was taking the picture, resulting in countless shots of half-cut-off sea lions!
Howver, that didn’t last long, and their cheeky and curious nature quickly took over their uncertainty. Soon enough, several sea lions were circling us and racing towards us. They would come straight at us at full speed, changing direction at the last minute. They would swim so close that on a few occasions I found myself closing my eyes instinctively, as if to prepare myself for an impact. It was exhilarating and I was giggling underwater. It became evident that the more active and entertaining we were in the water, the better the encounter would get. A few of the swimmers started duck diving and pirouetting in the water and they quickly got surrounded by playful and inquisitive sea lions, clearly living up to their nickname of “puppies of the sea”. Some will swim upside down, others would blow bubbles as if to imitate the divers. They were everywhere, on top of us, around us, below us, combining speed with agility.
After about an hour of fun, it was time to say goodbye. I reluctantly swam back to the boat, wishing, like a kid, that I could have had 5 more minutes to play!
Swimming with those gorgeous creatures is one of my most enjoyable and interactive marine encounters. I cannot wait to go back and spend more time with them.