Phillip Island Marine Mammals - Enchanting Sea Dwellers

Phillip Island marine mammals have delighted visitors for decades!

The island is fortunate to have as residents and visitors, two wonderful species - the Australian Fur Seal and the Southern Right Whale.

Sunning seals

Australian fur seals can be viewed all year round at Seal Rocks, while southern right whales arrive only in winter.

With the little penguin and koala, the Australian fur seal completes the "big three" of Phillip Island wildlife.

Just past The Nobbies at the westernmost point of the island, Seal Rocks has Australia’s largest colony of fur seals, with a population of 10-12,000.

Their ideal habitat is rocky shores and ledges (apart from the sea of course!).

As well as Seal Rocks, you occasionally spot them swimming in the channel between Phillip Island and the mainland.


This seal is the fourth-rarest seal species.

It was almost hunted to extinction until hunting became illegal in 1891 and colonies recovered.

They are now protected.

They can dive to a depth of 130 metres and feed mainly on squid, octopus, cuttlefish and local small fish species.

Males can weigh up to 360kgs, grow up to 2 metres long and live about 19 years.

Females are smaller, weighing around 100kgs and growing to about 1.7 metres. They can live up to 21 years.

Females give birth to one single pup, milk feeding up to 10 months. They mate again soon after birth.

Although sharks take some seals, man is the major predator.

Seal deaths occur from fishing line entanglement and from swallowing plastic bags.

Commercial fishing is reducing food supply.

To observe them in their natural habitat, take a boat cruise from Cowes to Seal Rocks.

Telescopes are available at Point Grant, site of The Nobbies Centre.

Or bring your binoculars to watch the antics of this engaging Phillip Island marine mammal!

Southern Right whale

During the winter months many species of whales and dolphins migrate north from Antarctica. As the Antarctic waters start to become cold and icy, they set out, the females already pregnant.

The Humpback whale (average length 15 metres) arrives in Australian waters around April/May and heads up the east and west coasts to the warmer water along the Queensland and Western Australian coasts. Here they calve.

The Southern Right whale is a bit slower off the mark and arrives in our waters around May/June.

The southern right prefers cooler water so stays along the southern coast of Australia to calve. They tend to come closer to shore than the humpback, making for better viewing opportunities.

Like the humpback they average about 15 metres in length. Due to hunting, their numbers have dwindled and only a few hundred visitors each year.

Their main destination is The Great Australian Bight but some calve in the waters off the South Australian and Victorian coasts.

Although humpback whales are the most common whale seen off Phillip Island, followed by Southern Rights, the island is also visited by killer whales (orcas) and the occasional blue and minke whale.

Dwarf minke whales can often be mistaken for dolphins as they move quickly and their dorsal fin can look like a dolphins.

A visit from a pygmy blue whale depends on the availability of food.

Each winter there are lots of sightings of these majestic Phillip Island marine mammals - from the shore or from helicopter flights available at Phillip Island Airport or cruises from Cowes Jetty.

Read about my whale watching experience here

It is illegal for boats to be closer than 200m from a whale or 100m from a dolphin. Jetskis must not be within 300m to any of these creatures.


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