Touched by a Seal

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Touched by a Seal

Wearing a large grin Wendell, a Californian Sea Lion, towered over us. This ‘gentle giant’, as our trainer described him, stood at least seven feet tall on his hind flippers. After poking out his tongue, a cheeky glimmer crossed his dark eyes and I experienced first hand his playful nature through a water fight which resulted in getting absolutely drenched.


I was participating in Sea World’s Seal Aqua Adventure, a full water based interaction program, taking place in a large pool behind the Sea Lion theatre. Captivated by their intelligence and antics throughout Sea World’s comical adventure, “Fish Detectives”, I was eager to get up close and personal with these amazing marine animals.


Wendell’s mischievous personality shone as he sprayed us with water, blasted us with his foghorn sounding voice and displayed his agility in the water. After proudly exhibiting his claws and black tinted teeth which are a characteristic of this species, Wendell graciously allowed his trainer to slip a harness around his neck. Now was the time for some fun! Exhilaration enveloped me, as I gripped the handle tightly and sped through the salty water on the back of 200 kg of muscle. Rounding the buoy, I felt the full force of his power when he spotted the fish being thrown in his direction. After a job well done, he returned to his quarters with his food bag tightly clamped in his mouth.


The exhilaration I felt from riding with Wendell soared even higher when we were then introduced to a celebrity. Spud, an Australian Sea Lion with black face and golden mane, starred as ‘Selkie’ alongside Jodie Foster in the movie Nim’s Island. Spud began circling us, demonstrating his grooming routine, while keeping a watchful eye for predators. Spud proved that even a hard-working movie star needs some time for fun by expertly balancing a ball on his nose and throwing it back to us.


Just when I thought our seal adventure had come to an end, Mannie, a New Zealand fur seal, surfaced. Mannie’s pointed nose contrasted sharply to Wendell’s and Spud’s round faces. With two coats of fur he was thick and oily. Mannie expressed himself vocally through what sounded like a deep, long belch. His long whiskers were made of keratin, the same protein our nails are made of. At the conclusion of the program, Mannie balanced on one fin. For a girl who struggled with gymnastics, this show of agility was inspirational!


The Seal Aqua Adventure is just one of the animal interaction programs available at Sea World. Feel the silky rays glide under your hand or the squishy texture of sea cucumbers in the interactive exhibits at Shark Bay and Ray Reef, both included in the admission price. Located at Main Beach on the Gold Coast, Sea World has a number of exhibits, shows and rides to keep the family entertained. The dolphins, another star attraction, continue to enchant audiences by performing breath-taking feats in the “Imagine” show. To add more excitement to your day, thrill seekers can feel an adrenalin rush riding the new Storm Coaster or for something different, discover Castaway Bay where you can test your skills on a high ropes course.


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