Tourists stumble upon 'amazing' scene in water off Aussie coast

As it turns out, it's quite 'tricky' for sea snakes to mate since they need to return to the surface to breathe – as these 'lucky' sightseers observed.

A boat full of tourists got more of a show than they bargained for during a tour off Australia’s coast over the weekend.

The group were basking in the sun after their adventure with Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim off Exmouth in Western Australia when the skipper noticed a “slithery looking coil” on the surface of the water. After inching closer, the twisted mass was revealed to be two sea snakes mating.

The boat of tourists overlooking the two mating sea snakes off Exmouth in WA.
A group of tourists got quite the surprise when they came across two mating sea snakes off Exmouth in WA. Source: Jazsea Imagery/Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim

“Once the male is inside the female, he is stuck until mating is complete — a tricky situation when you’re an air breather,” the organisation posted on its Facebook page. “The female will usually time when to come up for air and the male will have to try and grab a quick breath too.”

Incredible images taken by underwater photographer Jasmin show the two large snakes wrapped around each other in the ocean as a crowd of admirers watched on from the vessel. One of the reptiles can be seen lifting its head above water to breathe.

Aussies reacting to the scenic photos online were clearly left in awestruck by Mother Nature. “This is just amazing, mother nature is amazing. Seriously great photos,” one person said. “Man you think they would be able to get some privacy there…” another joked.

Left, four divers watch the coiled sea snakes. Right, one of the sea snakes pokes its head above water to breathe.
Mating is 'tricky' for sea snakes given they need to breathe air with their lungs. Source: Jazsea Imagery/Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim

Tour group 'so lucky' to witness sea snakes

Veterinary anatomy expert Dr Glenn Shea told Yahoo News the photos show mating Stokes' Sea Snakes (Hydrophis stokesii) — “Australia's most bulky sea snake” — for which he confirmed mating is a “tricky” business.

“[They] have to return to the surface to breathe frequently, and also have to grip each other for mating in an aquatic environment (hence the tangled mass),” he explained. “So it can be difficult to gain access to the surface while still remaining entangled.”

Instructor for the Australian reptile Academy Dr Christina Zdenek agreed, telling Yahoo “it is true that sea snakes — which give birth to live young — don’t have gills, so they need to breathe air with their lungs”.

“But 30 minute dives are not uncommon, with a maximum dive time of two hours recorded,” she added.

Dr Shea said observations of mating sea snakes are “important records” as “very little” is known about reproduction in many species. WIRES reptile specialist Gary Pattinson told Yahoo the tourists are “so lucky” to have witnessed the “utterly stunning animals in their natural habitat”.

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