The best way to see a seal’s true abilities is under water, when it looks like a comical dog that can fly. But even on the surface, without any grace evident, this is still a fascinating animal. If you go to Seal Island, you’ll find out why.
Seal Island is a modest-sized island less than 6km out to sea in the huge False Bay just off Hout Bay outside Cape Town. There are a number of boats that can take you there.
Once you are at the island, you’ll have a feeling you’re watching an exotic soap opera in another language, starring more than 60 000 actors.
The whole island is an ever-changing scene of brown bodies stretching, hauling their clumsy bodies along the rocks, blissfully scratching themselves with their silly hind-flippers, arching their backs like yogis, bellowing and orking at one another, squabbling and mock-biting, pups yelling for their mothers in unnervingly human voices. They’re all shades of brown, from dark chocolate through to mahogany and pale Weimaraner.
These are officially known as Cape fur seals, and those comical little tags on the side of their necks will tell you why they are called ‘eared seals’.
This is not the kind of island where you can disembark – it’s way too rocky. Not that you would want to – skippers try to keep well upwind of the island, which has a distinctive smell.
The seals are well aware that they are the favourite meal of sharks and enter the ocean with a degree of caution. In fact, a few visitors have seen the famous ‘Air Jaws’ manoeuvre as a shark has launched a flying attack on a seal. This is where the famous Discovery Channel filmed their famous documentary of the same name. Maybe you’ll be lucky too.