In the restless waves of Duikers Duiker Island, Cape fur seals are being extra whimsical with snorkellers and, in particular, underwater photographer and founder of Animal Ocean, Steve Benjamin.
“The seals are being super playful! I was hoping to get something interesting, and when this seal hung out with me and calmly put its mouth over my camera dome, I knew this was special,” tweets Mr Benjamin Steve.
The remote island off the coast of Hout Bay has been a popular tourist attraction for the past 20 years, and travellers come from far just to visit the seal colony.
There are up to 8 000 Cape fur seals on Duiker Island, many of which swim in the waters around the island.
After completing university studies in zoology and ichthyology, Steve Benjamin ended up in Durban, where he spent his days shark-cage diving and working.
He spent his days shark diving and working with at a marine-expedition company, before returning to Cape Town.
He opened a seal-snorkelling business specialising in marine wildlife experiences.
Animal Ocean was established in 2009, making this year its tenth anniversary in the industry.
“We started by meeting our clients in the parking lot of the Hout Bay harbour, but we have grown and now have a snorkelling centre in Albert Road, where we operate from,” says Animal Ocean manager, Lauren van Oort, manager at Animal Ocean.
She says Cape fur seals are often quite playful and inquisitive.
“The seals do sometimes swim quite close to anyone snorkelling nearby, but they have an incredible spatial awareness so they turn away at the last moment and zoot off!”
According to Animal Ocean, the best time to snorkel is February, after the birthing and mating season, which takes place in November and December every year.
And March and April are spectacular months to be in the water because the seal pups are in the process of learning how to swim.
Fun seal fact:
Females can delay fertilisation for up to three months to ensure they only give birth to pups at the beginning of summer.
These pups are born without blubber and are unable to can’t swim, making them very dependent on their mothers for nutrition and protection.
It usually takes about three months for seal pups to make their way get into the water and swim confidently on their own. The best time of year to witness this cute clumsiness is at the beginning of March.
1 of 2