Seals, much like Chicken Man, are everywhere!!! With around 100, 000 fur seals inhabiting New Zealand, there is an excellent possibility to sight a seal in unexpected places. I’ve enjoyed hot chips in the company of wild seals on the Otago Peninsula (no fish, that would be tempting fate), almost tripped over a seal sunning itself on the Wellington coastline and most unforgettably, snorkelled with the wild creatures off the coast of the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Seal Swim Kaikoura gave us an amazing insight to the world of New Zealand fur seals and allowed us to be a part of their colony for a brief but unforgettable time. Rest assured this company takes all necessary precautions to ensure the colony is not negatively impacted by its human visitors and is licensed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC). Excellent. We can now carry on with the business of exploring the magnificent, natural coastline environment of the fur seals.
After suiting up in a very tight, very unattractive but most importantly warm wetsuit, goggles and flippers, we took a short drive to the “magic” spot. Towering darkly in the distance was what I called Seal Rock; a large, craggy island hiding its many seals in the crevices and nooks of the rock. After flippering out of the car and into a boat in the most uncoordinated of ways, we took a short boat ride then slid into the water to join the mystical world of fur seals.
These large-sized creatures were most curious and came within centimetres of their human visitors. They moved through the water in the most graceful way which was in total contradiction to their slow, heaving waddle along the rocks. It was a sheer joy to snorkel in their cold, misty waters and see them in their natural habitat.
Unexpectedly, the seals were quite noisy! They frequently called to each other (and probably to us) in a deep, groaning manner. After sunning themselves, the seals would slide into the water and swim through their visitors cooling off and enjoying an ocean treat or two. It helps to be a confident swimmer, but take comfort in that the wet suits are also flotation devices and there are float boards available too if you need a breather.
DO NOT FORGET A WATERPROOF CAMERA! You’ll be kicking yourself if you do because you’ll miss photo opportunities like this:
Notice in the above photo the seals’ little ear flaps (or pinnae)? This feature separates the fur seal and seal lion from other seal species, who do not have external ear flaps.
After joining the fur seals for a treasured little while, we returned to the shore and indulged in a warm drink and discussed the beauty and awe of the experience. Honestly, we are still discussing it to this day and I think I’ll forever refer to New Zealand as New Sealand.