A mass of bubbles erupt from the sea bed, making their way to where I float on the surface.
And as quickly as they dissipate, the source of those bubbles pirouettes from the sea bed, then spirals its way around me and out of sight.
Within a few minutes, there are five of the sea lion pups in my view, sliding in and out of touching distance.
Touching, of course, isn’t allowed. However, they are free to bite us.
Kane, our laid-back tour leader, tells us the pups can get boisterous and may chew on our snorkelling fins or the bright blue straps of the GoPros. If they get too aggressive, we may poke them (this is different from touching).
We are off the West Australian Coast, more specifically off Jurien Bay on a boat called Sound Waves. As a sonographer, that is, one who works with sound waves, I think this is fitting and this is obviously the place the universe wants me to be today.
There are 12 tourists on the boat, and each is thrilled by the experience of swimming with the pups. Mature sea lions can be seen on the shoreline not far away. The mainland is within swimming distance.
Getting so close to those coarse whiskers, the huge staring eyes, the “five-phalanged” fins brings out a feeling of kinship. These pinnipeds, the Australian sea lion, are endangered, with only between 10-12,000 in existence. But then again, aren’t we all endangered these days?
We spend a full two hours communing with the pups until finally they do start getting a bit rough with each other and then that spills over to a nip or two of the humans. At the first sign of this we are called back to the boat and say our farewells.
We were high on the adventure as the boat roared the 15 minutes back to the harbour. The lyrics of I Come From a Land Down Under could be heard (and felt) over the din of the engine and although we were the only Aussie tourists there, everyone seemed to know the words.
The young Asian couple sitting alongside us videoed themselves moving to the beat as the boat’s white wake split the turquoise crystal-clear water.
The energy of the ride slowed to a happy satisfaction that lasted the rest of the day. Swimming with sea lions, what a blast.
We end up spending four day at Cervantes, just down the road from Jurien Bay. Because I am such a literary boffin (not) I had to find out that the town was named after a ship named after the author of Don Quixote. Of course I’ve heard of that book – and now I’m ploughing through the adventures of the unfortunate knight-errant thanks to the instantaneous gratification of Kindle.
But there was little time for reading. There was The Pinnacles to explore, the stromatolites to see (bacterial colonies on the shore of Lake Thetis – they look like giant cow pats but are much more important) and countless bays and tiny towns to visit.
Cervantes is working on its image as an artistic town and there are several quirky art pieces dotted around. My favourite was the zebra(s) crossing, although I had to Google it to find out why there were zebras in the park. Oh, and we ate lobster. The magic was beginning to become ho-hum.
Then we also did a stunning 28 kilometre bicycle ride down the coast from Jurien Bay.
And it was pretty all good. But did I mention the sea lions? What a blast.