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Gazing at us with soft, benevolent eyes, our new marine friends seemed to be fairly begging us to come and play. With a casual roll they flipped over in a humpback-like dive and lolled on the bottom of the sandy rock pool, just a few feet below where we lazily kicked our fins.
I dipped over into a dive and joined my new pal on the bottom and he—or was it a she?—lifted himself onto his front flippers, arching his back and pushing his chest out; it seemed totally nonaggressive, just a friendly salutation.
With my lungs burning, I headed for the surface, wondering if my friend might be a little nonplussed with my lack of diving ability and stamina. But he—or she—wasn't put off and joined me on the surface, cavorting all around me; we were soon joined by another playmate.
Further away, just out of visibility underwater but within eyesight on the surface were the older females. And a little more aloof and proud in their behavior—watchdogs of the harem and children that played around us—were the big males.
These were Australian sea lions, which most people call seals—that's what they look like. They're a tolerant, playful lot, and near Baird Bay on the west coast of South Australia, in the shallow protected waters off a small low island they call home, they are at their friendly, most appealing best.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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