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In Their Habitat...

I have always been in awe of life on Earth and have spent more and more of my time seeking out the most iconic and most bizarre of creatures. I’ve always looked for them in their natural habitat - I don’t visit zoos or aquariums. Instead I’ve done hundreds of dives looking for the tiniest of nudibranches in the Philippines, I’ve helped bring a lost polar bear cub back to it’s mother in the Arctic, and I’ve had to run away from a very close encounter with an elephant in dense undergrowth whilst on a walking safari in Ethiopia. Despite that last example being ever so slightly dangerous, I had a visceral feeling of belonging which I’ve not experienced many other places. It isn’t, though, a question of having extreme encounters, some of the best experiences I’ve had are easy and accessible to almost anyone.

Just outside Cape Town in South Africa lies a huge colony of cape fur seals. They are not called dogs of the sea just for their doglike snouts and whiskers but for their inquisitive and playful nature. They’re more than happy for you to swim with them and that is exactly what we did. One sunny morning we headed out on a small boat to Duiker Island and donning a mask, snorkel and a wetsuit we jumped into the sea. As they heard our boat approaching, their heads darted out of the water like little periscopes and started jumping around anticipating our arrival. Indeed when I entered the water I had three seals immediately around me, circling me, checking me out and showing off their immense speed. Just trying to maintain eye contact with them was impossible as they whizzed around me like excited puppies. They came at me from underneath and from behind and I circled frantically trying to see where they were. Even with my fins I was no match for them. When I did manage to make eye contact they would whip into a playful frenzy going even faster, jumping out of the water, somersaulting and leaving a cloud of bubbles in their wake. It was so exciting to be accepted into their world, not as an intruder but something to be amused by, completely welcome. That is the only way I want to experience wildlife.

…I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what lies out there in the vastness of our universe. Ironically, the more I have found out about the universe the more extraordinary our little piece of rock seems. Let’s keep it that way…

Video to follow…

(trip provided by Animal Ocean )

ps. If South Africa is too far away, there is always Cornwall.



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