5 treasures in Seal Bay

5 treasures in Seal Bay

It’s not just sea lions to look for at this world-class des­ti­na­tion. Here’s some tips from our park insider.

For a nature-based tourism expe­ri­ence like no oth­er, head down to Seal Bay on the south coast of South Australia’s Kan­ga­roo Island.

Just a short flight or fer­ry ride from the main­land, KI has a rep­u­ta­tion for its rugged, nat­ur­al beau­ty and its authen­tic wildlife encoun­ters. And Seal Bay is no exception.

With a stun­ning coast­line and windswept cliffs look­ing out to the South­ern Ocean, there’s plen­ty to point your cam­era at. But it’s the colony of Aus­tralian sea lions that real­ly steals the show.

Unique to SA and West­ern Aus­tralia, the species is endan­gered and has a total pop­u­la­tion of approx­i­mate­ly 10,500, with about 800 of these liv­ing at Seal Bay.

It’s home to the third largest colony of these cute dog-like crea­tures and is one of the only places in the world where you can see them close up. Which is espe­cial­ly adorable dur­ing breed­ing sea­son, as you’ll get to see new pups play on the sand and in the shal­lows with their new­born friends.

Senior Guide Melanie Ston­nill is lucky enough to see these mag­nif­i­cent sights every day. Here are her insid­er tips for you to look out for on your next visit:

1. Aus­tralian sea lions

Obvi­ous­ly the star attrac­tion at Seal Bay, these gor­geous ani­mals are one of the rarest species in the world. This pic­turesque loca­tion has been home to a pop­u­la­tion of Aus­tralian sea lions for thou­sands of years, and giv­en theiren­dan­gered sta­tus, is an impor­tant site for research and con­ser­va­tion.

It’s hard to go past sea lions’ play­ful nature and cute appear­ance – just watch­ing them can keep­y­ou enter­tained for what feels like hours. Don’t just look towards the water though, in the warmer month­s­they tend to lap up the sun on the shore and in the shal­lows, but when it’s cool­er they wan­der up the sand­dunes into the salt­bush, cud­dling up with their mates for warmth.

Insid­er tip: Look for the sandy trails around you – that’s how far some of the sea lions have ven­turedup the dunes.

5 treasures in Seal Bay

2. Pups

You’d be hard pressed to find a cuter ani­mal than a sea lion pup. When they’re born they have achoco­late brown hair coat which they shed when they’re about six months old. With­in a week a mum sea lion­leaves her pup on-shore while she heads out to sea to find food. You can often spot a group of young pups hangin­gout togeth­er while their mums are away – almost like a kinder­garten group.

From two months of age a sea lion can recog­nise its mum’s call. Mums’ voic­es sound deep­er while their­pups’ voic­es are much squeaki­er and high-pitched. At about six weeks of age they will go into the water tolearn to swim, usu­al­ly on a calm day.

Insid­er tip: You can often tell if a sea lion pup is learn­ing to swim – just like humans, they don’tlike to put their head under­wa­ter while they’re still learning.

5 treasures in Seal Bay

3. The boardwalk

Take a walk on the 450-metre board­walk to get up close and per­son­al with the sea lions. Be sure to look down –the shady spot under the board­walk is a per­fect place for them to laze around. It’s not just any­where thaty­ou can see sea lions in the wild just metres away from you, so keep your cam­era handy for some great close-uppho­tos. For a more thor­ough expe­ri­ence, book in for a guid­ed tour with one of the park’s sea lion experts.

Insid­er tip: See if you can tell the dif­fer­ence between the males and females. Males, known as bulls’,are sig­nif­i­cant­ly big­ger – reach­ing up to 350 – 400 kilo­grams before mat­ing sea­son begins – and areusu­al­ly brown in colour, while females cows’ have a more slen­der face and a lighter, grey­ish hair with­creamy chests.

5 treasures in Seal Bay

4. The lookout

Ven­ture up to the look­out for spec­tac­u­lar views across Seal Bay. Sea lions aside, it’s a beau­ti­ful coastal­lo­ca­tion, with noth­ing but open sea as far as the eye can see. If you kept trav­el­ling south from here you’deventually reach Antarctica!

But bring­ing you back to the views in front of you, to the left of the look­out is what’s known as East­ern­Pro­tec­tion Area 1, which is only acces­si­ble to researchers who observe and track the sea lions. Almost a quar­ter ofthe pups born for the 201718 breed­ing sea­son have been in this area. The breed­ing sea­son is close to an end, witha total of 228 pups born to date.If you look to the right you can see Nob­by Island, and in between is where all the­ac­tion is – the sea lions. 

Insid­er tip: Look at the rock pools to the left of the look­out. It’s here that you’ll often see pup­spro­tect­ed from the waves, jump­ing in and out of the water.

5 treasures in Seal Bay

5. Hump­back whale skeleton

When you’re on the board­walk, keep an eye out for the skele­tal remains of a juve­nile hump­back whale lying inthe sand. Mea­sur­ing about 10 metres in length, the whale washed up on the shore east of the look­out in a win­ter­storm back in 1984. To pre­serve the skele­ton, it was moved bone by bone to its cur­rent loca­tion in 1996.

Insid­er tip: Sea lion pups like to play with the hump­back whale bones, mess­ing them up and leav­ing Seal Bay staff totidy up after them, putting the bones back into their cor­rect position. 

5 treasures in Seal Bay

To hear more from Senior Guide Melanie Ston­nill be sure to check out ourInsid­er Guide – Seal Bay, or read our blog sto­ry about sea lions and their pups.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living