If Kangaroo Island is going to recover from the devastating bush fires which have destroyed much of the environment in the last week, then farming and tourism need to flourish. If you’ve ever thought about going to Kangaroo Island and think you’re less inclined to go now, I’d urge you to think again. The Island needs you.
One of the major tourist attractions is Seal Bay Conservation Park.
At the Conservation Park they have guided tours of a 1,000-strong wild colony of Australian Sea Lions, Neophoca cinerea. With small groups, always accompanied by a guide, you are allowed to walk along the beach, never closer than 10 metres from a Sea Lion. In the breeding season, for your own safety and the relief of distress to the animals, you are kept further away.
After the safety briefing I hadn’t expected to be standing on a boardwalk so close to one. What unbelievably beautiful animals.
The females are silver or fawn with a cream underbelly.
We found a cuttlefish ‘bone’ and our guide took time to show us how it would fit inside a cuttlefish, using a stick in the sand.
Australian Sea Lions eat cuttlefish, as well as octopus, squid, fish, sharks and the occasional penguin.
We were privileged to see a feeding pup close up. We were all holding our breath:
Australian Sea Lions offer alloparental care; they adopt the offspring of missing mothers and care for them.
The youngsters are left on the beach while the mother dives for food in the sea. It’s usual to see one on its own. This one looked so great that I decided to get down to take its photograph from beach level.
As I dropped low, something magical happened; it came towards me:
As I lay on the sand, our guide told everyone not to move. I began to worry that its mother might come back. Then I began to worry that one of the large males would object to me being there. Then I remembered the safety briefing about how fast the bulls can move when they charge.
It came ridiculously close.
I could hear it snuffling.
I was eye-to-eye with a Sea Lion.
I even got a decent view of its flippers:
What an experience.
Our guide told us all to back away slowly and we did.
He then spent the next ten minutes telling us how he had never experienced anything like it in all the time he had been visiting the colony.
I’m still delighted every time I think of the experience.
If you would like to support the Australian Sea Lion Research Fund, please visit here: