By Mikey Jones
This stunning sequence of images an intrepid diver swarmed by a huge pack of sea lions.
Taken by Dutch photographer Joost van Uffelen, 34, the photos show his girlfriend playing with a group of Steller sea lions off the coast of Hornby Island in Canada’s Salish Sea.
The couple said the bold and curious creatures ‘used them as chew toys’ but they were not afraid during the experience.
Joost said: “Sea lions are probably the most interactive animals to spend time in the water with, but nothing could really prepare us for the Steller sea lions in this location.
“Freediving with these sea lions was one of the best experiences we have had while freediving so far.
“Stellers are bold, curious and the most playful sealions we ever dived with.
“We have freedived with Californian, South American and Galapagos sea lions before, but nothing really compares.
“We don’t really know why they were so interactive.
“It could be their size, or their tendency to ‘gang up’ and investigate in big groups, or just their curious nature.
“They were using us as chew-toys, which, because of their size and teeth, could be quite intimidating, but it was only playful behaviour.
“In the process we learned that some freedive suits can withstand sealion teeth better than others and my girlfriends camo-suit seemed the most favorite suit of them all.
“Combining the close interaction with a big group of big animals and doing this while holding our breath made this a very exciting experience.”