Playful Seal Pups

24th April 2013

Have you ever been face-to-face with a Cape Fur seal pup? Those black goggly eyes and their playful curiosity make for an extraordinary experience!

As the last few days of summer tease us with bouts of warm weather, it seemed that now was one of the last opportunities to brave the icy cold water off Hout Bay and plunge into the shallows to see these furry, innocent creatures.

Steve Benjamin of Animal Ocean tells us that we were in for a treat – the seal pups are old enough and ready to play! We suit up into layers of neoprene… not forgetting the hoodies, gloves and booties. We look like mini Michelin men! Steve gives us a briefing on Duiker Island (Hout Bay’s version of Seal Island), the differences between Cape Fur Seals and the most other seal species (did you know that ours have ears and use their upper bodies to power through the water, whereas other seals use their tails!) and gives us an idea on what to expect from the pups playful nature. The excitement mounts!

A short boat ride from Hout Bay harbour and we arrive at Duiker Island. The weather is perfect… sunny skies, flat calm water and visibility so clear you can see the kelp swishing below you. Steve’s timed the snorkel perfectly. As he’s anchoring the boat, the sunbaked seals and their pups peel themselves off the warm rocks and mass exit into the water. Masks on, snorkels in… ready, steady and overboard we go!

The cold water feels like a slap in the face and sends a burst of adrenaline shooting through your body. As the bubbles disperse from the plunge overboard, a world of wonder unfolds as hundreds of tiny black agile bodies come into view.

Flittering between the kelp and dodging our fins, the fearless pups come in close to inspect the oddly shaped neoprene creatures that have arrived on their turf. Playtime with new friends it seems! They mock charge and leap out the water, while others find the yellow buoy line to be far more interesting as it swooshes in the water. For such agile water creatures they are pretty clumsy, swimming into each other while gazing at us, and mistiming their leaps to land on our heads!

About an hour later when the cold really started to seep into our wetsuits, Steve cleverly masterminded a warm welcome back aboard by pouring warm water down the front of our wetsuits to help us defrost, while we tucked into some tasty hot chocolate and biscuits! Ahhh, what a treat!

So if you keen to get up close and personal with those unforgettable big black eyes and cute whiskered face, make sure to be on the next boat!

Images courtesy of Steve Benjamin, Animal Ocean.