Eco-tourism: Swim with sea lion and dolphin at Baird Bay

Back in June, Emma Sterling and I were travelling over Eyre Peninsula on the west coast of South Australia. We’d been touring with the children’s theatre production ‘Wolf’ as video techs and after our final show in Ceduna, we decided we’d take our time exploring the maginifcent coastline on the journey home to Adelaide. One of the main attractions for us on western Eyre Peninsula was Baird Bay (not far from Streaky Bay) where we’d been told magnificent opportunities to swim with Australian Sea Lions awaited. Lying somewhat off the beaten track, the journey to Baird bay was well worth the effort and less than two hours in the water yielded some spectacular results. Despite arriving after the official close of the season, Alan Price from Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience took me out on his boat regardless. Despite the onset of winter, the shallow waters in the bay’s rocky reef were around 19 degrees centigrade. After sighting s cluster of sea lions on the rocks, several jumped in the water and Alan dropped anchor. I jumped overboard with my snorkel, fins, weight belt and Panasonic DMC-FT1 camera on a monopod and the fun began.

After enjoying the curious company of several females, a passing bull and a super-playful cub, I unhooked the anchor and climbed back aboard the boat. I asked Alan about the local dolphin pod, and we motored off in the hope of finding them too. Sure enough, Alan’s 17 years of experience in the area paid off, and I was afforded two fleeting opportunities to shoot video of the pod as they swam around me. The sound of them chattering in the clip comes straight off the Panasonic DMC-FT1’s built-in microphone. While I had swum with sea lion before on two trips to Goose Island back in the late 1990’s, this was my first encounter with dolphin in the wild and it was truly magical.

Baird Bay, South Australia – swim with sea lion & dolphin from Dan Monceaux on Vimeo.

The featured clip is a promo piece Emma Sterling cut of the footage I shot that day. For anyone looking to swim with sea lion and dolphin in their natural habitat, we can’t recommend Baird Bay highly enough. Tours are advanced eco-tourism certified and wetsuits, masks and fins can be loaned on site. The certification ensures that tour-goers experience ‘an opportunity to learn about the environment with an operator who is committed to achieving best practice when using resources wisely, contributing to the conservation of the environment and helping local communities.‘ Alan and Trish have a long and special connection with the local wildlife, and have hand-reared several orphaned pups and helped to manage local feral cat populations themselves over the years.

Dan Monceaux

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