A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to the Coral Coast area, almost 3 hours south of Geraldton. It is also referred to as the Turquoise Coast which is an equally fitting name. Here, you turn off of The Northwest Highway which runs all the way up this Western edge of Australia, and head toward the coastline on the Indian Ocean Rd. The road runs through several conservation parks, and edges extremely close to the ocean at several points where you emerge around a curve in the road to see crashing waves and little fishing shanties clinging to the scrub.
There are a few towns along this road, Jurien Bay is the largest town, catering to those escaping from Perth for a few days, and to those who love anything to do with the ocean. We stayed in Cervantes, a quiet little town in the southern part of the region and had a great couple of days taking mum and dad to the Pinnacles, doing a little herring fishing and just enjoying the environment.
The Jurien Bay Marine park runs along this stretch of coastline and is home to the Australian sealion, which are relatively small in number, due to an unusual breeding cycle, and a long period of pup dependency, due to the teaching required for the extreme diving conditions of the Australian oceans.
Nevertheless, around here they seem to be all over the place. The girls saw one yesterday while scuba diving and I often see them pop up when we are swimming or paddle boarding. They are naturally curious.
We decided, on this recent trip, to go out to one of the tiny islands along this coast and swim with the sea lions. Brendan, with Green Head Sea Lion charter was a great skipper. After a bit of a choppy ride out, we pulled into a calm sandy cove at an island to see groups of bulls, pups and females sunning themselves on the shore. As soon as they saw us, out came the pups (with a big bull in tow, just to make sure all was ok).
No food was given to them. Brendan says if he has missed a visit, they all come tearing out into the sea when he finally turns up.
It was delightful. After watching them play around the boat for a few minutes, we donned wetsuits, flippers, snorkels and goggles and joined them in the crystal clear turquoise sea.
They were like children. They swam over, stared at you with big eyes, looked at your bright green flippers then back up to your face, trying to decide what you were. The more you twisted and wiggled around in the water, the more they did too. There were sea lion pups playing with each other like dog puppies do, rolling over and over in the water, biting on each other with fairly sizeable teeth!
They were close enough to touch, and you’d bump into them occasionally, being the inelegant human swimmers that we are. They seemed fascinated by our flippers and one chewed on mine for a while.
Sometimes they’d sit on the shallow bottom and just watch and then play again as you dived down to meet them.
Every now and then a big bull sailed past, reminding us he was watching but never threatening despite his extreme size.
The rip dragged us away from the boat, and we burned a lot of energy trying to stay close to the vessel. In contrast it struck me how perfectly these creatures were made for their environment, slipping effortlessly through the water next to the landlubbers.
We played for a good long while, around and around, over and under, spinning in circles with these beautiful creatures. It was a blessing beyond compare, and we will never forget it.
Brendan made us a hot cuppa with cookies when we returned, tired, to the boat.
It might have been the best cuppa ever.