Swimming with Seals – the Dancers of the Sea

Every outdoor enthusiast at some point asks the question: what do you do when it’s forecast to rain the entire weekend? The best answer is go with it and get wet – it doesn’t matter if it’s raining underwater! And diving with seals is about the most fun you’ll have underwater.

So on a rainy weekend past, we piled ourselves into the car to road-trip down the south coast to Narooma, approximately 5 hours south of Sydney. I’d always heard that fur seals are super interactive and playful underwater, so when my friend suggested we book a dive, I was keen as mustard. We could have done it closer to home, but Montague Island is known for great visibility and underwater structure that attracts a wide array of marine life, including Little Penguins, Humpback Whales, dolphins, Grey Nurse sharks (harmless to humans) and, of course, Australian and New Zealand fur seals. The weather held for the choppy 30min boat ride out to the island (which left a couple of members of our party green) and we anchored in a sheltered bay on the western side.

People say that seals are the puppy dogs of the ocean. But as soon as you get into the water with them, you realise that they’re the dancers. They spin, somersault, pirouette and glide, liquid like the water around them. They charge straight towards you before finning away at the last moment to check out another diver, perhaps nibble on their fins, before darting to the surface with a burst of bubbles. They are effortless, inquisitive and excitable, and they really want to play – if you tumble, they tumble; if you stand on your head, they’ll try it to see what you’re doing. They’ve apparently been known to pick up bits of kelp for a tug-of-war on occasion. And when you’re floating on the bottom with aquatic acrobats zooming around you from all sides, you feel flounderingly two-dimensional in their three-dimensional world!

But the seals were only part of the story. The water around Montague Island is incredibly clear throughout the winter months, and the diving is fantastic in general. When we weren’t burning through our air with the seals, we came across long, languid Wobbegong, shadowy Grey Nurse Shark, Bull-rays which rippled across the sand and big Blue Groper that fed from your hand if you broke open an urchin for them. We even spotted a patterned Hawksbill Turtle finning along one of the deeper walls, in the same unhurried way that all turtles seem to.

As I write this, there is the drum of rain on the window panes and outside the pavements ripple with raindrops. I know where I’d rather be… and it doesn’t involve staying dry. Go with it.

You can dive with seal colonies in Wollongong, Jervis Bay, and Narooma. We dove with Chris and the team at Island Charters in Narooma. If you’re not an accredited diver (Open Water is all you’ll need), you can still book a snorkelling tour with is just as good!