My main purpose for a visit to Port Lincoln is to experience an animal encounter. One I can’t find anywhere else on the planet. The Australian Sea Lion is an endangered species; only around 14,000 are reported to remain, due to a history of large scale hunting, and a long and complex breeding cycle. And here, in Port Lincoln, I’ve got the rare opportunity of being able to swim with these incredible creatures.

We start our day at the Port Lincoln Marina. It’s a 90 minute boat ride with Adventure Bay Charters through the waters of the Great Australian Bight to Hopkins Island, where we anchor at the aptly named Seal Cove. Sparse and baron coastal beaches bookend rocky cliffs and hills.

For me one of the best things about this particular animal experience is that the sea lions are totally protected in their natural habitat. Our boat is required to anchor well off shore and we’re not permitted to walk on the island itself. Donning a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers, I dive into the Southern Ocean. Being a cove, the seas are calm and protected, albeit (and I do have to admit this) somewhat chilly! It’s not long before the sea lions, previously lounging nonchalantly on the beach, decide it’s time to come out and meet their visitors.

The ambivalence of the sea lions towards explorers on the island is rather amusing. There are several very distinct personalities within the sea lion colony – the younger children of the families seem to be significantly more excited, and upon spotting us, almost begd their mothers (who almost gave us the seal equivalent of “meh”) to let them go out to play. After a few minutes of what I can only imagine was a standard mother-child negotiation process, the younger sea lions waddle out along the sand, and into the water, swimming confidently towards us.