Just off the coast of Safety Bay you will find Seal Island. This is the home to a herd of Australian Sea Lions which is also listed as a threatened species.
Seals, from personal experience, are temperamental. They are generally considered playful, however they can be aggressive and cause some harm. Therefore it is always wise to respect this creature and keep your distance.
There are a range of options to view seals at seal island. For those that are here for a short visit can purchase ticket for a ‘Seal Island Cruise‘ which is about an hour and will cost roughly $39.00 per adult. You can also hire a ‘sea kayak’ which costs about $180.00 for the day. For those on a budget, the latter might be costly.
Of course, you can access the island through the use of any water transport system. As for me, as I own a kayak, I used it.
The trip across can be a bit daunting. With so many myths and rumors about sharks, one can be a little taken aback. However, it is fairly shallow with an amazing display of sea grass and plants all the way through to the island.
For the first time in the history of owning a kayak, I decided to take my big camera with. The water was flat (ish) and I felt that the risk was worth it. A friend of mine joined me, and she decided to follow suit ~ Two Girls – Two Kayaks – Two Cameras – JUST CRAZY!
There are a few rock formation surrounding the port side (left side) of the island. This little piece of sanctuary gives homage to a range of sea birds. Because it is surround by submerged rocks, getting close can be tricky. I found the natural current pushing me towards another island found also to the port side of Seal Island, called Penguin Island. (I will cover this island in the next article) Taking photos of the birds was challenging, especially as this section of water was a little ‘bumpy’.
Taking a trail into Seal island from the port side, is amazing. Many take the direct route. However, I feel a longer journey is a little more adventurous. As a result of this tactic I was able to spot what I called a ‘Sea Hawk’. However, after some research I found that Osprey are synonymous for this area.
Interestingly, the trail we took is also a trail very few take as one needs to navigate between two rock formations and through rocky shallows. Getting caught on some rocks can be scary, especially if you have a camera in hand.
After rounding the corner to the island, one can see the seals basking in the sun on their own private piece of land. Around them is the paparazzi. Boats, kayaks, SUPs, surfboards, and almost every other water transporting device could be seen.
There is a 10 m buoy line around the island, with instructions to people to keep their distance. The rule is that if a seal comes up to you, that you remain in place and do not venture towards it. However, on this particular day, young seals wanted to play. They swam between, under and over swimmers. It was truly amazing just to witness.
As everyone began to follow the seal, we moved closer to the shoreline to take closer pics. The natural tide drifted the kayak closer to the island. So it was learning to put the camera back in the back pack and paddling behind the 10m line.
After some amazing shots (which we were proud of at the time), we decided to paddle around the starboard side. The water was perfectly still, and apart from one other kayak, we were the only one’s there. Rocks and crevasse were the home to a range of birds, including pigeons.
Below my kayak was a clear view of plant life. It was so crystal clear that one could see the colors on the fish that were swimming through it.
After a looking at the crashing waves behind the island, I decided it was best to go back the same way we came. Luckily for us, this was one of the best decision we made all day. Many of the younger seals were now in the water. Some were swimming under kayaks. Others were swimming with people, while the big male kept a watchful eye on his herd.
As temperatures soared into the high 30’s (degree Celsius), I decided to jump in for a swim. I gave my camera and gear to my friend and dived into the water. I wanted to see this world from a ‘seal’s’ point of view. Of course, it wasn’t long before Irene jumped in. Of course camera gear were left on the kayak.
Irene decided that she wanted to take shots of the seals from the water. So she found a shallow area, and crouched down to take some photos. The big male made a decision to swim right up in front of her and pose for photos. A moment like this is definitely a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. While Irene took photos, I took photos of them!
We took turns looking after the kayak. I already had to swim 50 metres to rescue my kayak from the first time I jumped in. Although the water looked still, there was a small undercurrent which dragged my kayak out into the deeper side. With Irene keeping the kayaks in check, I edge myself closer to the ‘big boy’. Before I knew it, another seal arrived to say ‘hello’. Both decided it was time to play and with that was a signal for us to give them space.
After 4 hours of adventure, it was time to trek back. I noticed that my backpack was quite wet at the bottom. And my camera had taken on a few knocks. Although the camera was fine, the lens was murky and I had nothing dry to clean it with. My photo taking moments had come to an end…and with that … a few lessons learnt!
The experience was priceless. While $180.00 might be a bit pricey to hire a kayak, it may be well worth the investment considering the experience one can have.
The best time to visit would be over the summer months which are from November to March. If you choose to take a cruise prior to these months then there is a big chance you will see whales. Of course, there is an array of birds.
Things to consider if visiting Seal Island:
- If kayaking – take a waterproof bag of spare clothes (lesson I learnt)
- Sunscreen…. put on multiple times. I slapped some on while running to get into my kayak. I am currently paying the price with a very burnt tummy area.
- If Kayaking then take the following: hat, sunglasses, water, a snack (if going for a long time), swim shoes, a shirt and a towel.
- Don’t leave any of your litter around, so make sure you store it away so you can bin it later.
- Camera – if you are using a kayak, make sure it is in a waterproof bag. Or, keep it as dry as possible.
- Keys – always make sure keys to your car/home are in a place you can find quickly. There is nothing worse than kayaking a fair distance home only to realize you left the keys on the island.
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