When travelling to Namibia you never really expect to go on a seal safari! You’ll certainly remember the smell, although you may not want to! Here’s what I found out when I visited.
The Colony at Cape Cross
Namibia is famous for the wide open spaces with shimmering herds of springbok that you might find in Etosha National Park. Seals are never really top of the list of ‘must see’ safari animals. However the seal colony at Cape Cross, should not be missed!
Cape Cross can be found on the northern Skeleton Coast, roughly 130km north of Swakopmund. The Cape Cross Seal Reserve was created here in 1968 to protect the largest cape fur seal colony in Namibia. Fur seals are commonly known as eared seals, because “true” seals lack external ears. The amazing thing is that this reserve is the largest mainland breeding colony of Cape Fur Seals in Namibia, numbering between 80,000 and 100,000 individuals. Seeing fur seals in these numbers is an incredible sight to behold.
My Seal Safari
My own journey to Cape Cross started with a long bumpy road up the Skeleton Coast. I marvelled at the raw and inhospitable coastline. Nothing seemed to be growing here and the waves were relentlessly crashing onto the unforgiving shore. As I was wondering how long I was going to drive along this road, I came across a small brick wall preventing any further adventurous travel. I had arrived.
So there, on the other side of the wall was a sea of seals. It was a gobsmacking sight. I still had my mouth open as I opened the car door and the stench of seals was completely overwhelming. It made me want to gag. There was no way you could escape the smell. A hand over your nose and mouth slightly diminished the impact and breathing through your mouth had no effect at all, it was incredible. The smell was of hot, wet, damp yet unwashed seal bodies blended with an acrid smell of seal dung that had spent far too much time in the Namibian sun. It was completely overpowering and I could understand why I had been recommended a ‘short’ visit.
Noisy, Smelly Seals
And with the smell came the noise. It was a cacophony of mother seals calling their pups, lost pups mewing for their mothers and aggressive interactions occurring in the limited rock space. It was an assault on my senses.
I gingerly approached the wall and peered over into the lives of a seal. I was particularly careful not to make too many sudden movements and definitely not to approach too closely. It has been known for the seals to get spooked and as a result pups could get trampled. The seals seemed to be unperturbed. I had a wonderful half an hour of seal watching before the stench of dung and the incessant noise drove me bonkers.
Getting into my car provided a bit of happy respite for my ears but minimal amount of nasal relief. Only driving a considerable distance away from the colony could I allow my nose to recover from its horrific ordeal.
Despite the stench I would seriously recommend a seal safari in Namibia. It’s an unforgettable experience, but you may not want to stick around too long!