Gigantic sea lions play with scuba divers
Steller sea lions inhabit much of the coast of British Columbia. Passing early spring days by sunbathing on the rocks off Vancouver Island, they also love dipping in and out of the cool ocean to cool off… they also love to play with local scuba divers. Scuba diving with sea lions is an incredible experience, an animal encounter like no other. You can’t wander into the middle of a herd of buffalo in Yellowstone Park, but off Hornby Island, near Vancouver Island, British Columbia you can definitely wander into a raft of beautiful Steller sea lions. The steller sea lion is the largest of the eared seals. Females weigh around 500 - 700 lbs, whereas the larger males can reach a whopping 1000 pounds and have even been known to reach an incredible 2000 pounds! Males have broader, higher foreheads, flatter snouts and darker, tuftier hair around their large necks. When diving with steller sea lions it is incredibly important to be fully aware that you are in their habitat, and their environment.
Scuba diving and snorkelling with steller sea lions is great fun, not because you’re there to see them, but because they want to see you. They are very inquisitive, and seem almost more interested in checking out the humans than the humans are of checking out the sea lions. They will rush towards divers as an intimidating herd, before diving down at the last second. Upon descending and reaching a depth of about 20-30 feet just off the shore of Hornby, once the sea lions spot the divers they come to say hi. At times they come darting out of the emerald green water at warp speed, turning at the last second and disappearing behind a diver without a trace. Never far away, the sea lions will be hovering vertically above a divers head, basically laughing until the divers clumsily turns trying to find more sea lions to watch. They’ll whiz past again, this time closer, blowing bubbles, opening their mouth nice and wide for the diver to see all his teeth. Swimming away the sea lion may politely slap a diver in the face with a fin. They also love coming nose to nose with divers, showing off their gorgeous eyes and in that second, connecting with that diver in a way that very few people ever get to do. Scuba diving with sea lions in British Columbia can be a little intimidating. However, the local dive shops that offer these excursions have many years of experience in these waters, and know exactly where, and when to put divers, or snorkelers in the water. They also will inform the divers new to this experience just what to expect and to not panic. Relax and take in the whole experience.
The sea lions love seeing sparkly and dangly things, so the divers must be aware of what they have attached to their suits.Yes the sea lions may bite as well, but in a friendly testing way, much like a puppy gnaws on your fingers. One dive with a sea lion will teach any human more about their habitat, lives and existence than any text book or documentary. To come nose to nose with a 1000 pound sea creature and know he means to cause you no harm, will give you more respect for the ocean and it’s inhabitants than any museum or lecture. This is definitely a bucket list item for any scuba diving enthusiast!