Guests can enjoy interactions with the Sea Lions at Sea Lion Discovery water programme at Atlantis in Dubai. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: A new opportunity to interact with sea lions has come to Dubai with the opening of Sea Lion Discovery at Atlantis, The Palm resort.

Guests can experience a range of behaviours with South African fur seals, including kisses, cuddles, hugs and rubs. Wading into a waist pool, specialists there will also educate guests about the marine mammals.

The sea lions also show off their dance moves, clapping skills, handstands, seal mimicry — sea lions are sometimes mistaken for seals — and ability to follow a range of cues from trainers.

The term fur seals and sea lions are traditionally used for 15 different species, including the South African fur seal. These mammals are anatomically different from the species referred to as seals. Sea lions have external ear flaps and their flippers are much longer, which assist with movement on land.

The attraction opened recently at the luxury destination on the Palm Jumeirah manmade island, and follows the earlier opening there of Sea Lion Point, which allowed visitors a more limited and “dry” on-ground experience with sea lions.

In the new option, guests can spend around 30 minutes in the water with a sea lion, under supervision and guidance from specialists. Before the close encounter, visitors are briefed about safety, house rules and pointers to make the most of the experience. They are also given a presentation on marine mammals and conservation.

For Atlantis in-house guests, Sea Lion Discovery is Dh495 and for visitors it is Dh595.

The interaction “aims to be enriching for both the guests and the marine mammals”, said Heidi PerezCao, vice-president, Sea Lion Point.

“Sea lions are social animals, they have personalities like people have personalities.”

One of the fur seals there, Molly, 19, was born in France and brought here. Another one, Swan, has developed a reputation for being almost as eager to meet guests as they are to meet her.