A wide variety of marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales and otters live in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve enjoyed diving with curious Steller sea lions near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  These playful giants quickly buzz past and circle us, stopping occasionally to give a nibble.

Seals and sea lions are different animals even though they look very similar.  One difference between the two is that sea lions have external ear flaps, unlike seals.  Also sea lions use their front flippers to swim whereas seals use their hind flippers for swimming.  A third difference is that sea lions tend to walk on land using all four flippers, whereas seals like to bounce on their soft bellies.

Harbour seals can grow to about 6 feet in length, and are the marine mammal that I see most often while diving in the Victoria area.   These gentle animals are great companions during a dive.