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The west coast of Australia is home to the most incredible sea life. From the humpback whales that migrate along the coast to the playful dolphins, chilled turtles and huge manta rays that float along all year round, my mind has been blown by what you can find here. After seeing so much, there was one creature that I was yet to come across – sea lions. But to add the cherry to the west coast cake, Jurien Bay offers just this.
Jurien Bay is a sleepy little seaside town just a couple of hours north of Perth but if you’re looking for the ultimate sea lion experience then do not pass by! I took the sea lion interaction tour with Jurien Bay Oceanic Experience and it was easily one of the best tours I have done. From their super comfy boat to the incredibly friendly crew, the whole trip with them made swimming with sea lions a complete package.
So if you’re wondering which sea lion tour to book with, here’s my review of swimming with sea lions with Jurien Bay Oceanic and why I think it’s the best sea lion tour in Jurien Bay.
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But first, a little more about Jurien Bay Oceanic
Jurien Bay Oceanic is run by Pete and his fantastic crew. They offer not only sea lion tours but also fishing charters and event hire so you can safely say they know what they’re doing out on the ocean! As well as being super knowledgable, the company puts emphasis on operating in an eco-friendly way which is something I always look into before going on an animal experience tour.
When it comes to swimming with sea lions, they ensure the boat is moored up no closer than 50 meters from the colony’s island and they operate a strict no touching of the sea lions. Whilst they wanted Tom and I to have a great experience with the sea lions, ultimately it was up to the creatures to approach us and not for us to influence their behaviour. There’s no food thrown into the water to entice them or anything similar, it’s simply about being in the water and seeing what happens.
What’s included in the trip?
In all honesty, pretty much everything! We were provided with wetsuits, snorkel and masks and flippers for swimming as well as towels for when we got out. Hot tea and coffee were also available and the boat even had a hot shower on board for afterwards. That leaves very little for you to need apart from your swimmers and toiletries. Don’t forget your camera either though! We used our GoPro for this trip and it was awesome to be able to capture the experience.
What is the boat like?
I feel like boat tours can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the boat itself. I’ve been on plenty of tours where the focus is on filling the boat and getting as many trips done as possible, but this wasn’t the case with Jurien Bay Oceanic’s boat. Their boat is huge and with only groups of about 15 going on the trip at a time, there’s plenty of room for everyone. It also has enclosed sidewalls which meant it was nice and warm on the cool day we went on the tour and we also knew our belongings were safe from sea spray. There is also a toilet and a hot shower on board – something that was very welcome after being in the chilly water.
How the trip works
Jurien Bay Oceanic run two sea lion experience tours – a 3 hour one to the nearby colony on Essex Rocks and a half-day tour to Frenchmans Island. Tom and I took the shorter tour to Essex Rocks and it was fantastic. I can get a little seasick so the short ferry ride out was a huge bonus for me. The tour starts at 7.30am from their jetty at Jurien Bay Marine Park. There was plenty of parking available for us in our van which made getting there really easy.
As we got on the boat we were welcomed by Pete and his crew and given a safety briefing before we set off. We also learnt that these sea lions are Australian Sea Lions and they are only found along this part of the coastline and south into South Australia. Essex Rocks is home to a colony of about 35 sea lions all year round which makes it a great trip to do no matter what time you’re visiting.
The boat ride out to Essex Rocks took only about 20 minutes and we had some great views of the coastline and some other islands nearby. Even on a bit of a cloudy day, the water here was a beautiful colour. There is a bit of a rougher patch of water on the way out but then it settled down as we reached our mooring spot. It felt like it took no time at all to get there. As soon as we got there we were greeted by a sea lion coming over to check us out. I was over the moon to have seen one so soon!
What’s it like swimming with sea lions?
Once we were safely moored up, it was time to get into the water. One of the crew members was snorkelling with us which was great as Tom and I had someone to follow and make sure we were swimming in a way that is respectful of the sea lions. We put on our wetsuits, grabbed our snorkels and fins and got in the water.
The little guy who had come over as we arrived hung around for a bit, diving down to grab crabs from the bottom and playing with them. It was fantastic to see them a sea lion this close, just busy doing what he wanted to do.
After a while, the sea lion swam off to we swam a little closer to Essex Rocks in search of more. For a while we couldn’t find any so instead, we swam over to a shallow area which faced the beachy part of the island to watch them from there. The water here was quite choppy but having the chance to watch the sea lions on land was fantastic. We watched how the colony defended their territory from outsider sea lions and got to see them climbing over rocks to a dry spot. They really are incredible creatures to watch!
Whilst the outsider sea lions may have been forced off of the island, it did mean there were a few sea lions now in the water. Sea lions are such playful and curious animals that we would keep seeing their heads pop up, making it easy for us to swim in their direction. Luckily, these sea lions were happy to have us watch them and dive down with them. It was unreal how close they would get to us sometimes and how unfazed they seemed to be by us. We were able to follow them for a while and watch them swimming in circles with each other and coming over to see us before they dived down and swam away in the blink of an eye.
After being in the water for about an hour, the cold had seeped in and we decided to get back on the boat. As we got out of our wetsuits. it was so nice to be given towels to dry off and warm-up, as well as hot drinks and biscuits. We had a few minutes more to watch the sea lions from the boat before we started our return journey. It was certainly a bonus to have a hot shower on board too! On the way back we were lucky enough to get a fleeting glimpse of a could of dolphins but they sadly didn’t stay around. Make sure you keep a lookout when you’re on this tour though as you never know what you might see!
Over the course of my travels, I’ve been on quite a few boat tours but I can honestly say this was one of the best. Not only are the guys at Jurien Bay Oceanic incredibly friendly, but they have a real passion for the sea lions and understand their behaviours well. As much as I love seeing animals in the wild, I always try to be mindful about how the interaction will occur and with Jurien Bay Oceanic I was confident that they were working in a way that prioritises the sea lions well being. I’ve also never been on such a spacious and comfy boat for a tour which was just perfect when you’re getting out of the cold water. So if you’re looking for the best sea lion tour in Jurien Bay, be sure to book with Jurien Bay Oceanic. They offer a great eco-friendly tour at a fantastic price and an awesome crew to wrap it all up. I cannot recommend them enough!
A big thank you to Jurien Bay Oceanic for hosting us on this trip. As always, all opinions are entirely my own and I truly had a fantastic time with them. If you’re interested in booking, take a look at their website here for more information.