For one of the most memorable and amazing experiences during your visit to the Eyre Peninsula, you need to book yourself in for a morning swimming with the sea lions. It’s one of the experiences I was so excited about for this year, having saved it on our list of can’t miss activities years ago. The tour gives you the opportunity to jump right in the water, get up close and personal with these incredible animals and enjoy time to play with the carefree puppies of the sea.
On our last morning in Port Lincoln we were booked in for the swimming with sea lions experience with Adventure Bay Charters. Offering the most environmentally friendly and intimate in-water experience in the area, Adventure Bay Charters was always the number one choice for us for this experience, and we couldn’t wait to get out there.
The morning started as the sun was still just beginning to rise, with a beautiful coloured sky as we arrived at the marina for an 8am tour departure. We checked in to the Adventure Bay Charters office, helped ourselves to some complimentary tea and coffee, and before we knew it we were boarding their tough black shark warrior boat, ready for an adventure. It was a relatively small group of less than 20 people for the trip, giving us plenty of room to spread out and make ourselves comfortable on the boat.
We met the crew who would be taking us out onto the water – Dan was the captain for the day, with Harley and Amy our tour guides for the day. Dan greeted us onto the boat and shared with us a little insight about the sea lion population around Port Lincoln, some information about their lifestyles and habits, as well as what we could expect during the tour, before returning to the steering wheel to get us going!
Adventure Bay Charters take their tours out to Hopkins Island, a very important and popular place for the local sea lion colony. Hopkins Island is considered a haul-out zone, where sea lions come to rest after big feeding trips, and to socialise with each other. They don’t necessarily live here, but there are always sea lions spending time here both on the shore and in the water, so they are able to guarantee sea lion sightings on every tour.
Getting to Hopkins Island
The trip to Hopkins Island takes about an hour and a half from the marina. The boat was large and comfortable, with great viewing platforms at the front and back of the boat where you can check out Port Lincoln National Park and some of the close by islands as you go. Unfortunately on the morning of our tour the day started out pretty grey and chilly, so we opted to stay inside once the boat really got moving – it gets pretty windy out there!
While morning tea was being served on the boat, Harley and Amy began to fit everyone with a snorkel, flippers and a wetsuit so that we would be able to get straight into the water when we arrived at Hopkins Bay. More time with the sea lions, less time getting ready!
You definitely don’t need to be worried about being cold on this tour, the wetsuit that you’re given to swim in is SO THICK! 7mm thick in fact, pretty much giving you the insulation of a sea lion! The thickness of the suit, mixed with the waves of the ocean made it quite difficult to get these things on while the boat was still moving, especially with everyone trying to get changed at the same time. If you’re not sure of your wetsuit size it’s a good idea to start with a size up. They’re so tough to get on that it will be much easier to wiggle out of one that’s too big than too small if you need to change sizes.
I might add in here that the trip to Hopkins Island can get quite rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness it’s a good idea to take some calming or sea sick medication before you leave or bring some with you, as there is not any available on the boat. Even for someone who generally doesn’t feel seasick, it was a little rough for me.
By the time we got to Hopkins Island we were all suited up, with flippers and snorkel in hand and the sun was starting to peak out from behind the clouds. We couldn’t wait to jump in the water. We anchored a short distance from the shore, and as the crew got the boat ready for us to jump off, we could already see at least twenty or thirty sea lions sleeping and socialising with each other on the small island beach.
There was already a few sea lions in the water near the boat that we could see, who came straight up to the boat to see what was going on. You could tell, they were all ready to play. Harley jumped in first, getting the sea lions all excited that we had arrived. While he was rounding them up, Amy told us that the more you play with the sea lions, the more they get excited and want to play with you – but if you just float still in the water they will quickly get bored and swim away.
Finally, it was time to jump in the water!
Swimming with the sea lions
We jumped off the back of the boat, into the clear water, and the sea lions started coming to play straight away. There was about eight or nine in the water already when we arrived, and more just kept coming in off the shore to join in the fun. Amy had told us that on average they would see seven or eight seals a day, with about two on a slow day and up to fifteen on a great day. We were already off to an amazing start!
Swimming with the sea lions was just unbelievable. They LOVE to play and were just as interested and curious about us as we were about them. They would come right up to you, swimming circles around you so quickly it will leave you dizzy if you try and chase them. They were jumping out of the water, plunging back down to the bottom, and sharing their love between all the different people in the water and playing with each other at the same time.
The area for swimming at Hopkins Island is quite large, so there was plenty of room for everyone to move around and find some space for themselves. Because there were so many sea lions already playing in the water, it was even easier to not have to swim on top of each other to get a good look.
We got to swim with the sea lions for about an hour, which was the perfect amount of time. By the end of the hour everyone was starting to get a little exhausted from swimming around in those thick wetsuits. We pulled ourselves back onto the boat, stripped off our wetsuits and had a quick rinse in the hot water shower on the deck which was just so refreshing after all that saltiness!
The boat actually has showers on board as well, so if you would like to take a shower after your swim and get changed you’re more than welcome. The hot shower on the deck was enough for us though, exactly what we needed after a salty morning.
The sea lions weren’t happy that we were leaving though, they still wanted to play! They were still swimming around the boat, getting our attention by jumping and flipping in and out of the water right up until we started to leave. SO CUTE.
Once back on board Harley came around with ham and cheese toasties for everyone – the perfect post-swim snack after working up such an appetite in the water. They went in a heart beat, by far the best food on a boat tour we have ever been served. We started to make our way back to the marina, cruising along the Port Lincoln National Park and keeping an eye out for dolphins along the way.
Book your trip with Adventure Bay Charters
Without a doubt, swimming with sea lions with Adventure Bay Charters was one of our best mornings on our lap around Australia so far. We had an amazing time and couldn’t recommend the tour or Adventure Bay Charters more highly! It was truly such an amazing experience, the sea lions are so much fun to play with and you can’t help but smile the while time you’re with them. What an amazing way to start your day.
Adventure Bay Charters Info
Tickets: The swimming with sea lions tour costs $215 per person, with discounts for children and families.
Address: 2 South Quay Boulevard, Port Lincoln || Ph: (08) 8682 2979
To find out more and book your experience head to: adventurebaycharters.com.au.
What to take with you: Make sure you bring your own towel, bathers and sunscreen on the tour, as well as some warm clothes for afterwards and a camera! If you don’t have an underwater camera you are able to hire an action cam for your trip, but you will need to organise this in advance so you don’t miss out.
Cage Dive With Great White Sharks
The other experience Port Lincoln and Adventure Bay Charters are known for is cage diving with great white sharks! Port Lincoln is considered the great white shark capital of Australia, book yourself onto one of the shark tours and you could find yourself face to face with one of these incredible predators of the ocean.
Adventure Bay Charters offers a $50 discount if you’re booking both the Swimming With Sea Lions and Great White Shark Tour with them, as part of their Ultimate Marine Adventure. The Shark Tour is a full day experience, taking you out to the Neptune Islands where sharks are often spotted in their natural environment.
For those of you who are keen to check out the sharks, but nervous about getting into the cage to do so, Adventure Bay Charters has the only Aqua Sub on their boats, an underwater observation room that gives you 360 degree views of the sharks, without needing to get wet. Perfect solution.
Without a doubt, swimming with sea lions is some of the most fun you can have in Port Lincoln and is absolutely a can’t miss on your visit to the Eyre Peninsula. It’s definitely a day that will be hard to top on our travels.