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Bubbles From The Abyss
There is a Colony of Australian Fur seals on Martin Island, a 10-minute Boat trip from Port Kembla Boat Ramp. Martin Island has areas that are protected, but also provides some great basking areas for the seals to sit and dry off in the sun. A dry seal looks completely different to a seal in the water. Make sure you check out the colour of their fur. The fur seals can use their back flippers separately when walking slowly, but can also swing them forward together. This enables them to gallop over short distances almost as fast as you can run.
The colony is made up of 40-70 Australian Fur Seals, mostly consisting of a bachelor group of males that will have juvenile seals along with them to mentor and teach their seal ways.
The Fur seal is the second furriest animal on the planet, behind the otter, with approximately three hundred thousand hairs per square inch. The Australian Fur-seal has now become a protected species, due to being hunted for their coat in the 1800s. The population has risen from a low of 20,000, but unfortunately, the species is still threatened by commercial and recreational fishing, plastic pollution, entanglement, oil spills, bycatch.
Scientists believe that Fur seals are likely to become endangered in the future if circumstances do not change. So let’s make sure we do our part in what we can do to help and clean up our own mess.
For those of you feeling slightly anxious about getting in the water with such a fast-moving marine mammal, relax and read on. There is no reason to be concerned.
Australian Fur seals will try to confuse you and put on a display, with loud vocalisations like grunts, but will swim off if they are feeling concerned. While we are in the water with them, each interaction will be playful and full of curiosity with the seals free to leave whenever they want to. The Seals can swim up to 9km/hr when cruising and even faster for short bursts when chasing fish. They use their front flippers to swim. The back flippers are used for steering. They are a very intelligent species, that are aware that they are much faster than us.
Be prepared for a high energy day. The seals react best to a lot of movement, noise and bubbles, so start thinking up ways that you can turn into a diving ball of entertainment. These dives are not about conserving air or staying down for long periods, but rather making the most of playing with them as Australian Fur Seals can dive down to 200m and can stay underwater for over six minutes using their large eyes & whiskers to find fish, squid and cuttlefish.
These are not trained animals, they are not in an enclosure, they are wild, free, full of spirit and ready to get to know and play with you. The experience of Interacting with a seal so intimately is something you are never likely to forget.