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Abyss Scuba Diving
Montague Island, Australia: Where to Dive with Seals
Whether you’re a new Open Water diver, or have been diving for many years, diving with seals is always heaps of fun! Seals are playfully referred to as the puppy dogs of the sea, & the Australian Fur Seals tend to be particularly playful. The more noise and the more of a fool you make of yourself, the more likely they are to come and check out what’s going on. They love to make eye contact and mimic what you’re doing; if you do a somersault, they’ll do a somersault, you spin, they’ll spin! The younger ones may even come up and have a tester bite on your fins, torch, or camera to see what it is! While you can have some great interactions snorkeling as well, the seals particularly love to play in a scuba divers’ bubbles.
While we do get Australian Fur seals near Sydney (Port Kembla) they are a migratory clan that come in with the cooler waters and so really only hang around between June/July & Sep/Oct depending on the water temperatures. Jervis Bay has slightly cooler water temperatures & they do have a permanent residence there with more numbers joining them in the cooler months.
Montague Island on the other hand has tons of Australian and New Zealand fur seals all year round. Montague Island is about a ten-minute boat ride out of the small coastal town of Narooma - about 4.5 hours’ drive south of Sydney. Montague Island itself is diveable on both sides of the island and the Aussies and Kiwis each have their own side of the island they tend to stick to.
Australian and NZ fur seals are very similar, but it’s quite interesting to see the differences in their demeanor. NZ fur seals tend to be a bit more reserved and hang back further, slightly more timid than their Australian counterparts. NZ fur seals also tend to be a bit smaller and are generally darker in colour as well. With both species, it’s the pups that are the most curious & playful of the seals. The seals like to have a bit of a surf and will play in breaking waves, so they like choppy conditions. This tends to make it a bit easier for scuba divers than snorkelers as you can hide out under the surface chop & enjoy the show! Seals are cheeky though, they will lead you astray and may lead you deeper than you intended to go, or closer to the surf near the island. If you keep your ground though and don’t follow them, they will come back to you. One of the great things about Montague is you can position yourself easily on a 10m rock platform and not have to worry about cheeky seals. An underwater noise maker, especially an air horn is brilliant for attracting them to you underwater! If you want good photos, you better be quick, or find a seal that likes to pose. I’ve seen seals just hang out, nice and still and move into different positions, all while maintaining eye contact with you or the camera (they’re probably checking themselves out in the lens reflection!) - these make for great photos.
Our weekend away trip makes the most of diving with these super playful animals. The trip provides accommodation in Narooma Friday night, so head down whenever it works for you on the Friday, after picking up any gear or tank hire from Abyss. Saturday morning, we head out nice and early for a double boat dive and get plenty of seal interaction time. After the second dive, we drop our tanks off to get filled and then enjoy an afternoon at the beach, local cheese factory, head off for some wine tasting, or check out some of the local historic towns nearby. Your Abyss trip leader will prepare a BBQ back at the accommodation to wrap up a great day! Sunday morning, we check out of the hotel before heading back for some more great diving. In addition to the seals, you can also be sure to see Grey Nurse sharks, maybe even Dolphins, big schools of fish (Yellowtail, Fusiliers, Mado, Bullseyes, Kingfish, Turtles, big Bullrays, and who knows what else that could be migrating past the area. Keep your eyes peeled!
Once the diving has come to a close on Sunday, it’s time to pack up before a scenic South Coast drive back home. Before you leave, hang out at the pier and watch the big bull rays come in for a feed as the fisherman fillet their fish just at the wharf there. If you have time on your drive to or from Montague, Pebbly Beach is a great spot to stop off for a lovely walk along the beach and to enjoy some local Australian land wildlife, especially in the morning and evenings when the Kangaroos come out in droves.
For a fun, playful weekend in a beautiful area, you can’t go wrong with Montague Island!
What Divers Say
By Andria Payne