Swimming with Sea Lions (and Shark Cage Diving) in Port Lincoln
(Location: South Australia, Australia)
When we got the new underwater housings, we knew we would be returning to Port Lincoln. We’d visited back in 2015, and had an amazing time. The sea lions come RIGHT up to you, to the point where you can feel their whiskers. Unfortunately my GoPro was off half the time when I thought it was on, so I didn’t capture the interactions that I’d hoped. On a side note, GoPro usability SUCKS.
As with last time, we had a difficult time finding somewhere to stay. Who knew there was a festival celebrating all things tuna?? We were able to get the last room at the Port Lincoln Hotel, which is pretty much the fanciest place in town. The room was nice, and had a lovely view of the foreshore. There was a little bit of noise from Tunarama, but we got back pretty late each night so it wasn’t too much of a nuisance.
We booked two “combo tours” with Calypso Charters. The tours depart at 11am and make a stop at Hopkins Island to swim with the sea lions before heading out to Neptune Island to (hopefully) spot some great white sharks. I was psyched to swim with the sea lions again, but only lukewarm about the cage diving.
The sea lions did not disappoint. There are few things that hold my attention, but swimming with sea lions is one of them.
Camera wise, I used the 16-35 on the Sony A7Rii, with an SJCam mounted to dome port. I love the SJCam over the GoPro because I can actually tell that the thing is recording. Yes, the Sony video quality is better, but this way I get the best of both worlds. I shoot stills with the Sony and have the GoPro recording video the entire time. I went back and forth with whether to mount the SJCam on the top or the bottom of the dome port, thinking that if it was on the top it may miss half the action by being out of the water. I ended up mounting it on the top, and it caught some great footage.
After the swim, we headed an hour and a half out to the Neptune Islands. There was another boat there just ending their tour, and we were thrilled to see that they had a great white swimming off the back of their boat. The six person cage was lowered into the water, we donned our weights (about 20 kilos to keep us firmly planted on the bottom of the cage), and with regulators in mouths, in we went. The cage was heavy and solid, and moves around a fair bit. The logical part of my brain was convinced that there was no way the shark could get in the cage. There was one small opening around eye level, but it was smaller than my camera so no real risk of the shark getting in. We rotated through groups, each spending around 10 minutes in the cage. It was exhilarating for sure, and cold.
The itinerary was the same for the 2nd day, however we weren’t able to find any great whites 🙁 This is why we usually book a few days for these types of things – they are wild creatures and never guaranteed to behave. In the event that there are no sharks, Calypso refunds $100 and gives you a $200 voucher for a future tour. I can imagine that this wouldn’t be ideal if you were from overseas, but it’s an easy trip for us so we’ll be back for sure.