Day 242 on the Road
Swimming with Playful New Zealand Fur Seals!
Today we are joining New Zealand fur seals in their natural environment with Seal Swim Kaikoura! If you like this video and want to see more awesome 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand then why not check out our YouTube Channel? Why not?
Today we are going to get to swim with some seals the cutest marine mammal I know of. Yes, they’re cuter than dolphins.
This morning after a gorgeous sunrise at the Dusky lodge backpackers we are heading to the base of Seal Swim Kaikoura. Yes, we have seen albatross, we have seen whales, we have seen dolphins, we have flown over the whole Kaikoura Peninsula but we can get up-close and intimate with the beautiful seals of the local seal colony.
After getting all geared up at the base of Seal Swim Kaikoura complete with wetsuits mask and snorkel, everything to keep us warm basically, we are going on the bus towards the boat where we’re gonna be heading out to the seal colony we’re swimming with today. We see loads of wildlife along the way including little blue penguins and lots of seabirds and we’re also given a briefing of how to behave in the water when we’re swimming with the seals.
The boat ride to get to the local seal colony is actually surprisingly short. It only takes us minutes to arrive there and this is only one of the many seal colonies in the Kaikoura area. There are in fact a lot of them spread out on the whole coastline and this because of the Kaikoura Canyon. The Kaikoura Canyon breathes life into the whole water surrounding the Kaikoura Peninsula because it brings nutrients back to the surface. Those nutrients in turn feed the whales and fish which the dolphins are feeding on and the seals are feeding on them as well. It’s just really the perfect combination of amazing marine wildlife in this area. And the seals are often forgotten not that many people know that you can swim with seals in the Kaikoura area and yet you can and it’s an awesome experience.
It’s a bit of a shock when we first go into the water with that cold water surrounding the South Island coastline but thank God we do have these wet suits on which keep us nice and warm for the duration of our seal swim.
And to be honest we don’t have to swim very far because these seals just come check us out straight away. Although on the way to the seal swim, we were told not to be too threatening to the seals and not to really approach them too closely, we find that the seals are really the ones approaching us.
We really didn’t know what to expect when coming into this Seal Swim tour we didn’t know how these seals were going to behave but it turns out they are super acrobatic and they really want to show off to us. But one thing that really strikes me about these absolutely adorable New Zealand fur seals is how big and googly their eyes look underwater and they’re staring us right in the face as we’re swimming around them it’s kind of like we’re having a social connection with these seals.
It’s absolutely amazing to see how inquisitive those seals are. We’re basically not checking the seals out they’re checking us out. They are getting increasingly closer to us coming to check us out because we basically look really weird to them.
They are so playful. They’re coming super close. We don’t have to move we just stay. They know that we respect them and they come to us. it’s absolutely amazing. I am having a blast. Oh he’s back in the water.
He is he’s over there. I’m going back.
Oh man those seals are relentless. As soon as we turn our back one of them is swimming up from behind us and is surprising us in the water it’s absolutely amazing.
Our technique to experience this seal swim is really simple. We basically don’t swim at all. We start a little far away from the rocks and start floating at the surface of the water. From there the waves are gonna start pushing us closer to the rocks and the seals are gonna come and check us out because well we just look weird to them. And as soon as we get a little too close to the rock we repeat the same operation by swimming back and letting the current do its thing.
And one of the results of this lazy swimming experience is that we appear absolutely non-threatening to the seals. We are just floating at the surface and they’re the one that gets too close to us we don’t get too close to them.
And another reason for that is that the seals are much more agile than we are underwater. So they feel super comfortable. They basically have the power because if I were to try to chase after the seal well I just couldn’t.
This whole swimming with seals experience is a lot different to when you see seals on land around the coasts of New Zealand. Because yes, you do see a lot of seal colonies. They’re not exactly rare. But on land they’re usually a lot more threatened by humans. they’re not really into humans and don’t like to be approached, but this is so different to how these guys are reacting to us right now.
On top of that, we’re actually super lucky to be swimming with these New Zealand fur seals today because actually during the 1800s they were hunted to the brink of extinction but thanks to New Zealand conservation laws they are now a protected species and today there’s around 200,000 individuals with a 2% increase every year. And that is so awesome.
As well as the obvious excitement of swimming with seals, actually snorkelling in this area is really cool as well with all these underwater kelp forests and we see lots of different fish under here as well. What’s really interesting though is that although there’s not that many seals actually in the water with us we do spend the majority of the time with just one seal that just wants to hang out with us.
Or at least that’s what Laura thinks. I think this seal is just intrigued that we are really weird as looking things which are coming into its house. To be quite honest in the middle of my living room there was a seal that was walking in I would spend quite a lot of time looking at it as well.
But nonetheless the experience is absolutely amazing. Being able to interact wit those animals in such a different element is absolutely mind-blowing. We are having a blast and the fact that the seals are getting more and more confident and getting closer and closer is absolutely fascinating.
I also really like how the seals are hanging kind of from the top of the water it kind of looks like a giant pineapple with their flippers sticking out of the surface with their heads being towering down at the bottom of the water. it’s so cool.
But just before you guys start commenting below with all your questions I’m going to start answering them right now. yes, it is safe to swim near those seals they are absolutely non-threatening because we are way too big to be prey to them and as soon as they get bored from us they just swim away and get back onto the rock.
It’s also very safe to be in the water nearby all those rocks because the whole team of Seal Swim Kaikoura is keeping an eye on us. there are two people on the boat which are checking out to see if there is the right amount of heads which are popping out of the water regularly and there is also two people on the water with us with flotation devise.
And finally the most important question is, is it fun? Hell yes it is super fun to swim with those seals. they are supe cute and I think it’s because of those massive eyes that they’re having it’s just so pretty and so cute. It’s better than a puppy I’m saying it.
After around an hour of swimming with these amazing fur seals it’s time for us to wrap up this seal swim tour and head back toward the Kaikoura coastline. We’re jumping back into the boat with huge smiles on our faces. this tour definitely exceeded well and truly our expectations. We had no idea seals were like that underwater.
After a week of doing whale watching, flying over whales, dolphin swimming, seeing albatross, llama trekking and now seal swimming it’s fair to say that Kaikoura is the place to be if you want to do any wildlife experience in New Zealand.
A lot of good thing… Do you have the keys? I just need to go.
So Laura’s sign for Robin do you have the keys is not that, laura’s sign is… Come on, Robin.