Seal Bay Conservation Park on Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest sea lion colony, home to around 1,000 Australian Sea Lions who surf the waves to shore and – once on land – make tracks and burrow in the protected sand dunes and coastal scrub.
An excursion to Seal Bay is included in a signature itinerary at Southern Ocean Lodge, and every visit offers a different experience – as dealing with nature is never the same twice. Southern Ocean Lodge guests share the encounter together with their own guide as part of a small group.
Around 40 minutes’ drive east along the coast from Southern Ocean Lodge, the Seal Bay experience begins at the Visitors’ Centre, where guests can learn a little about these fascinating creatures before walking along the pathway and boardwalk through the sand dunes and down towards the open surf beach. Sea lions can be spotted hiding in self-made sand-dune cubbies, basking in the afternoon sun or sliding between dunes.
Depending on the season, and the weather, the action at Seal Bay can be subdued, or during mating season, testosterone-charged! Sea lions are very territorial and while females remain loyal to the colony, males expect to fight for her.
On reaching the beach, guests must stay together as a group and be careful not to approach the sea lions, as this is where the social action happens. It’s important that visitors leave at least a 10 metre distance between themselves and any sea lion, and to remain with the group and its guide.
Guests can scan the waves for incoming, surfing sea lions, and witness the large male sea lions rolling about on the beach, courting elusive females or establishing social order with other males.
In this video, the group came across a young male lolling about on the path on the way back to the Visitors’ Centre. As the group was unable to pass him, the guide carefully approached him to create a ‘standoff’ and the sea lion moved reluctantly on down the path towards the beach. It was a rare and unforgettable encounter.
Some quick facts about Australian Sea lions at Seal Bay:
* Australian Sea Lions are known as ‘eared seals’ for their small yet distinctive external ears.
* They use their back flippers to ‘walk’ on land, and as propellers in the water, while their front flippers are used as props.
* A fully-grown male sea lion weighs up to 350kg, while a female weighs up to 100kg.
* A sea lion can expect to live for between 17 and 25 years.
* Sea lions feed from the ocean floor, opting for octopus, cuttlefish, small rays and sharks.
* The Australian Sea Lion (Neophoca cinerea) is an endangered and declining species with around 14,700 remaining in Australia; 85% are in small colonies in South Australia. To walk freely among them is a rare privilege.
To discover more, visit http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/sealbay/home