Baird Bay sea lions colony and the opportunity to swim with sea lions and dolphins were the reasons why we did our Eyre Peninsula road trip. A big commitment as we know that wildlife encounters are out of human control – otherwise, it’s not wild, isn’t it? Still, we flew all the way from Brisbane to Adelaide and then drove for hours, hoping to have a great experience swimming with the Baird Bay sea lions. And it was better than the best experience I could have dreamt of.
We heard about it from a friend’s friend who knew about it from word-of-mouth too. It’s the best way to find hidden gems in Australia. Baird Bay is quite remote and well-protected from mass tourism, and we hope it will stay like this. That’s what also made the experience so unique and why I find it’s one of the best places to see wildlife in Australia.
For those less at ease in the water or lacking time, you may want to check the more touristy Port Lincoln experience. You can fly to Port Lincoln from Adelaide, so it’s easier to get there. We haven’t tried it, but please, if you do, it would be great to learn about your experience: leave a comment below!
Why choose Baird Bay to swim with sea lions
The largest Australian sea lions colony on the mainland is in Baird Bay
We started the day watching the sea lions waking up at Point Labatt lookout on the other side of the bay from Baird Bay. I already had the opportunity to watch sea lions from a beach on Kangaroo Island. This time, we were up on the cliff, which makes it very different. The interaction and proximity were not as good, but the overall view was stunning and fascinating. Even from a distance, we could see the young ones playing in the pools between the rocks. Their agility in the water is impressive. If you have binoculars, make sure you bring them to Point Labatt lookout.
We could have spent the full morning watching the show, but we had an exciting meeting planned with another colony of sea lions in Baird Bay.
Learning more about Baird Bay sea lions and dolphins
The staff at Baird Bay eco experience were very friendly and welcoming. As the water is still cold at this time of the year (14°C!), the sea lions were having a Saturday morning sleep-in on the beach. Hence, we had to wait to go out later in the morning. Not a worry for us: as mentioned before, we know wildlife is not under our control, and fortunately, we allowed a very flexible timetable for that day to ensure a great experience swimming with sea lions at Baird Bay.
This was an excellent opportunity to chat with the team and learn more about the Baird Bay sea lions and dolphins. With almost 25 years of experience, there was a lot to learn from them. Their stories are amazing and fascinating. Although they never fed the animals, both sea lions and dolphins always come to interact with them. There is enormous respect between the staff and the animals that undoubtedly enhance the experience at Baird Bay.
The team don’t guarantee anything: if the animals don’t show up or are not keen on interactions, they respect that choice. They will not feed them to attract them. The animals decide. Although I would have been very disappointed to come all the way to Baird Bay and not see the sea lions, I love this approach.
Our Baird Bay swim with sea lions and wild dolphins
We were lucky to be just the three of us on the boat that day. The remoteness of Baird Bay limits the number of tourists. This made the experience even more incredible. We could swim twice with the dolphins and spend a long time playing with the sea lions.
We only stopped when we got too cold in the 14°C water! The accompanying guide from Baird Bay kept playing with them as we were back on the boat to warm up with a Milo. It was a pleasure to see their passion. I guess even if you have the opportunity to do it often, it is every time something unique that you can enjoy!
I wouldn’t call our experience a swim with sea lions. It was much better than that.
We hardly swam. Both sea lions and dolphins came to us and stayed with us.
I was amazed by the interaction with the wild animals, especially the sea lions. They had the entire ocean to go to, and still, they followed us when they spotted the boat and stayed to have some fun together. This was an experience of a lifetime. I couldn’t have been happier. I don’t think anyone can be cuter than a sea lion pup playing in the water.
Equipment and tips to swim with sea lions in Baird Bay
The water was cold when we went swimming with sea lions in Baird Bay. I always wear a full-body wetsuit when we go scuba diving, even when the water is at 28°C. Our swim with the sea lions and dolphins would last as long as our bodies could deal with the 14°C water. Here are a few tips to try to make your experience lasts a bit longer:
- Stay warm on the boat (drink warm beverages, wear warm clothes)
- Move while you’re in the water – sea lions love it, and you won’t feel cold straight away
- Choose a tight wetsuit (if it’s too large, it won’t keep you warm)
- If you have fleece rashies, wear them under your wetsuits (we have full-body sharkskins*)
You don’t need particular skills to swim with sea lions. Apart from the cold, it was an easy experience. The water was very shallow and clear. However, you’ll feel more comfortable and get more out of your experience if you:
- Know how to use snorkel gear before the trip (tour guides can explain and help, but it’s better to have practised it in a pool before!).
- Know how to duck dive/free dive to go underwater and play with the sea lions (if you’re comfortable, they provided weight belts to help going down).
Other things to do near Baird Bay before/after swimming with sea lions and dolphins
On our way out of Baird Bay, we stopped at Murphy’s Haystacks to have a look at these funny rocks. The colour contrast between the pink granite boulders, the green field and the blue sky is beautiful and very photogenic. Granite boulders aren’t rare in Australia, but it was a nice addition to our trip/
We ended the day in Wudinna watching the sunset from the Polda Rock. We were ready to kick off our third day in the Gawler Ranges National Park – only 40km away.
Where is Baird Bay?
Baird Bay is a tiny and remote village in the South of Streaky Bay in the North-East of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It takes over 8 hours to drive there from Adelaide. There are flights from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. The drive from Port Lincoln to Baird Bay takes around 4 hours.
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Wow, sounds like an amazing adventure! Great photos. I would love to swim with dolphins and sea lions but the water honestly sounds too cold for me =/
Michelle, I think you should try! I hate cold water. I cannot bear it. 28 degrees is not hot enough for me. But when you see these little faces popping out, it’s so amazing that you just forget about the cold! And you must move to keep them entertained; it’s an opportunity to warm up a bit 😀
Who did you contact o hire the boat and guide to swim with the dolphins and sealions any sharks around. would be looking to go in early july 2019 to wim with the cuttlefish my 13 yr old son and husband are into fishing also would love your input