What’s On has video and pictures of Atlantis The Palm’s ‘Sea Lion Discovery’ experience. Learn about conservation efforts and see the sea lions up close in Dubai.

Atlantis The Palm writes that its Sea Lion Discovery is an ‘extraordinary encounter’ – and they’re not far off. The chance to cuddle up to these massive creatures is certainly unique. But what should you expect? Is it safe? Is it well-maintained? And is it worth the price tag?

The adventure begins by squeezing into wetsuits. Provided by Atlantis, you’ll just need to bring your own swimming gear. The changing rooms come with lockers, massive towels and all the slightly posh amenities expected of anything on The Palm.

Once suitably suited, you’ll head into another room for a 10-minute orientation. Ours was led by an energetic man named Happy. Happy explained that we would be meeting a South African fur seal. He then noted the places not to touch (nose, eyes, other bits), where to keep your hands (on the stomach, elbows out), and what we could expect once in the water. You’ll learn about the daily check-ups each sea lion receives and the on-site lab where blood samples are checked thoroughly. These efforts help to ensure the animals remain happy and healthy.

After orientation, it’s time to dive in. A seasoned marine mammal specialist (ours had 11 years’ experience) introduces you to your South African fur seal. We met Sanga, a hefty fishy beauty.

You will spend around 30 minutes in the water playing with the graceful animal. The process is all fairly controlled, with the two instructors walking the fur seal through a variety of routines. Throughout it all, Sanga was rewarded with numerous fish – part of The Atlantis’ ‘no punishment, only rewards’ training policy. This meant by the time the photo-friendly fur seal kiss rolled around, Sanga was smelling fairly fishy.

There’s no denying the process comes with a hefty price tag. Sea Lion Discovery starts at Dhs495 – and the 30 minutes spent in the water fly by. Yet in exchange for the cost, you’ll get a clean environment with multiple pools, regular medical treatments and daily check-ups for the animals, groups limited to 10 people, and energetic, well-trained sea lions managed by clearly affectionate instructors.

Sea Lion Point, The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, daily 10.45am to 3.45pm, Dhs495 for inhouse guests, Dhs595 for visitors. Booking includes all day access to Aquaventure Waterpark, 25 per cent off same-day admission to The Lost Chambers Aquarium, and a free souvenir photo. Tel: (04) 4261030. atlantisthepalm.com