A bachelor group of fur seals now calls the Illawarra home after settling down on Five Islands, off Port Kembla.

The owner of United Divers Wollongong, Suzanne Friend, has been diving with the Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals around Martin Island for five years.

“There used to be only a few seals and then they started to stay permanently around Martin Island,” Ms Friend said.

“From mid-June to October, there is about 150 to 200 seals in winter, and then they taper off to about 30 seals which stay all-year round.”

The vice-president of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans (ORRCA), Shona Lorigan, believed that the seals around Martin Island is a bachelor group.

“Bachelor groups are forming in more places around NSW, and there are some very popular areas along Illawarra beaches,” Ms Lorigan said.

“A bachelor group is a seal mentoring system where juvenile, male seals learn from older, successful, male seals.”

The bachelor group of fur seals has selected Martin Island as their preferred habitat based on its desirable traits.  

“Seals will choose a quiet area that has a healthy supply of fish, and where there are less people,” Ms Lorigan said.

“The New Zealand and Australian Fur Seals also love rock platforms where they can haul-out onto the rocks and spend time on land.”

United Divers Wollongong hosts boat dives off Martin Island where divers can visit the seals.

“The seals are very curious and their characters are always entertaining,” Mrs Friend said.

“They really are amazing and make divers look extremely clumsy and ungraceful underwater.”


The bachelor group on Martin Island. Picture provided by Suzanne Friend


Australian and New Zealand Fur Seal numbers vary each season, peaking during the winter months.

To secure your boat dive this winter with the fur seals on Martin Island, visit the United Divers Wollongong website.

Ms Lorigan advises people to be cautious of fur seals in the water and on land, as they are wild and unpredictable mammals.

We want to keep the seals and the people safe,” she said.  

For information on your obligations when approaching fur seals in the water and on land, visit the NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage website.