I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published October 9th 2014
There are not too many places in the world where you can get close to sea lions. At Seal Bay Conservation Park, you get this opportunity on not one but two different experiences. The first is a self-guided boardwalk tour, while the other is a 45 minute guided tour that allows you to get right down on the sand.
The sea lions at Seal Bay make up more than 10% of Australia's whole population, and this location is one of the largest breeding areas in the country. The species is classified as endangered, or 'rare', and a reserve has been created here to help protect them. It includes the beach and foredunes and will soon encompass the water too.
The boardwalk is the cheapest way to see the sea lions. It can be done by itself, but it is also included in the cost of the guided tour. While doing it, you follow an 800 metre walk than winds grandly down the side of a hill towards the beach. In the cooler months, it's possible to sea seals up on these dunes, but I visited on a hot day when they were enjoying the cooler sand down near the water.
The boardwalk along the hill
The boardwalk experience is pretty satisfying, not just for the seals, but also for the amazing scenery. There's a lookout to see too that provides and even better look.
Signs give you information on the sea lions and at one point there's a whale skeleton beneath you. At the end, of course, you get to see the sea lions on the beach. They're petty relaxed, having spent two to three days at sea getting food, and now resting for an equal amount of time.
The view from the bottom of the boardwalk
A rock or a sea lion? We took a vote and got it wrong. It's a sea lion
I did the boardwalk first when I was here and wasn't too sure if the tour would offer me anything extra; I could see groups on the sand and it didn't seem like they got any closer to the sea lions. In the end, I decided I had not came all this way to turn down such a unique experience.
The tour was not just a rehashing of the signs erected along the boardwalk. Instead, my group was given a talk much more specific to this particular group of sea lions , such as which ones were male and female and who was injured. We got anecdotes about events in the last few years (such as when a New Zealand fur seal, probably from the Cape du Couedic colony, arrived). We even watch a young seal make its way from the dunes to the waterline. It was great to not have a barrier between us and the animals. Times for these tours can be found here.
Another group doing a tour
There were plenty of sea lions
One of many memorable moments
The Seal Bay experience continues up at the Visitors Centre, where there are a few more things to see, like a sea lion skeleton. It also has a gift shop.
A sea lion skeleton
Seal Bay Conservation Park is located in the south-western corner of Kangaroo Island and if you're going to come all the way out here I recommend you also have a look at Little Sahara, only twenty minutes away, while you're in the area. Sandboards and toboggans can be hired there for a rides down a giant dune.
If you're looking for another (cheaper) wildlife experience I recommend heading to Cape du Couedic in Flinders Chase National Park, where there's a colony of New Zealand fur seals. There is no cost to see them as they're on the way to Admirals Arch (the national park is where you'll find the Remarkable Rocks too). A park entry fee is required though.
If all the activities are starting to add up, you might want to get a Kangaroo Island Tour Pass. It costs $68.00 and gets you tours of Seal Bay, Kelly Hill Caves, Cape Willougby Lighthouse and Cape Borda Lightstation, as well as a year's access to Flinders Chase National Park.