Seal Snorkelling: Top Activity in Cape Town that Should be on your Bucket List

South Africa's premier tourist location Cape Town sports many activities for tourists. Cape Town Bucket List's seal snorkelling in Hout Bay rate as one of the Top Ten. I went to check it out to give you the lowdown on what to expect.

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Key Considerations

  • Easily accessible in Cape Town by Uber or Red Bus
  • Weather dependent activity (All year round)
  • All equipment supplied
  • Some physical activity involved
  • GoPro video camera rental available
Contact Cape Town Bucket List for a booking

Houtbay harbour is the destination when you plan to do some seal watching in South Africa. Weather permitting the harbour hosts thousands of tourists on glass-bottom boats for seal viewing at Duiker Island. My activity for the day was slightly different and more adventurous than the standard mass tourist glass-bottom boat. I was going to snorkel with the seals. In mid-winter!

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When you first arrive at the harbour, you are met by traders selling various African curios. Seals are apparent from the start. On the dock, you will find a bull habituated by a local beggar to make money. The beggar will insist on tourist paying him to take photos with the seal, and some readily do. Please do not take part in this practice; instead, take pictures of the seals in their natural habitat, or if you want on the harbour wall lazying around.

As soon as you arrive at Cape Town Bucket List tours site, you will experience the professionalism that is evident already at booking. The tour starts with a safety briefing, where the question of sharks inevitably pops up. Although great white shat specialise in eating seals they do not feed at the dive site you will visit. The briefing includes some necessary information about seals. Duiker island hosts 8,000-9,000 seals on the island and can go up to 15,000 during the breeding season.

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About the Cape Fur Seal

Before 1973 seals were hunted in South Africa, almost to extinction in the early 1900s. In 1973 the hunting of seals was banned in South Africa. Seals get killed regularly by accident in the process of fishing and get stuck in lines and fatally hurt such as the above harbour resident. Namibia still allows the hunting of seals in their infamous annual seal hunt where 80,000 seal pups are clubbed to death and 6000 bulls killed. If that is not enough, an unbelievable part of the story is that all the skin goes to one man who has the license. The locals are paid below minimum wage to hunt the seals. Just google the Namibian seal hunt, and you will find very chilling reports about the practice. Some celebrities have wayed in on the seal hunting practice.

The seal snorkel is one of the most amazing experiences I have been able to take part in. The staff provide you with snorkelling gear that keeps even the coldest ocean temperatures at bay. I felt at comfortable staying in the water with these amazing creatures for a substantial amount of time. Although you will not be allowed to interact with the seals by touching them, the young pups are highly curious and will swim up to you and discover on their own.

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The moms will keep their distance and an eye on the pups, the more aggressive bulls mainly stay on the island and bask in the sun. A guide will join you in the water and give safety tips as you go and also provide some information on where to swim to get the best view. Our dive had fantastic visibility as you will note in the video I took of the activity. Don't have an action cam, no problem you can hire one from Cape Town Bucket List. The video was taken on a hired cam. Overall this is a fantastic activity for tourists with a slightly more adventurous outlook on life.

Adriaan Buys
Adriaan BuysConservationMag
Founder of ConservationMag, Studying expansive conservation management strategy in a world of short term human needs. Researcher, Lecturer, PhD Student
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