Photograph by Spencer Millsap
The clear waters of the South Australian coast are a haven for marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, sea lions, and seals. They can be spotted from the shore, but boat tours will get you up close for sightseeing or swim adventures. All outfitters are licensed by the state’s Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources and must follow strict guidelines.
Sea lions are lumbering and sleepy on land, agile and curious in the water. These graceful mammals frolic and dart through the water and will come up to swimmers with ease, especially the pups. They can be found in the wild right along the South Australian coast, but the clear waters of the Eyre Peninsula are the best place to see them up close in a swim experience.
Port Lincoln, situated along the calm waters of Boston Bay, is a growing tourist destination with plenty of sea-based experiences. The bay teems with marine life, including sea lions, and Adventure Bay Charters and Calypso Star Charters offer the opportunity to swim with these mammals, who will come up close and weave around you to inspect new visitors on their block.
The waters of Baird Bay, about three hours northwest of Port Lincoln, are home to whales and dolphins as well as sea lions. Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience sets sail from this small settlement for an unforgettable experience with these gentle creatures.
Kangaroo Island is another favorite hangout for sea lions. Every day after a feed, they come ashore to sunbathe at Seal Bay, where you can walk on the beach and get close to the big colony here. The National Parks and Wildlife Service controls access to the beach, and there are ranger-led tours available. The sea lions’ cousins, seals, can be seen at Flinders Chase National Park in the west of the island at Cape du Couedic.
South Australia has three species of dolphin: the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the common bottlenose dolphin, both found in coastal waters, and the short-beaked common dolphin, which is usually found in deeper waters. Dolphins are often seen from Adelaide’s beaches, and the Port River and Barker Inlet area has a resident pod of 30 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, along with more than 300 visiting regularly. They are protected by the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, just 20 minutes north of the city, and walking trails allow visitors to spot them from the shores.
To allow visitors to see the dolphins up close in the water, outfitters run swim tours from Adelaide’s beaches. Temptation Sailing has a sailing catamaran departing the beach suburb of Glenelg for dolphin swimming and viewing experiences. They back up the promised sightings on their three-and-a-half-hour cruises with a money-back guarantee. Adventure Kayaking at Port Adelaide runs kayaking trips that take in shipwrecks and dolphins in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.
On the Eyre Peninsula, Adventure Bay Charters in Port Lincoln offers dolphin swims along with its other marine adventures, and Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience in Baird Bay combines swimming with dolphins with sea lion tours.
Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures offers swimming and sightseeing tours along the island’s sheltered north coast to remote coastal beaches, where seals and dolphins tend to congregate. Tours depart from Kingscote and Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island.
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