Hout Bay Harbour Seals
Hout Bay Harbour Seals: Hout Bay Harbour in Cape Town is a working harbour for tuna and crayfishing industries and is hence home to a vast amount of local cape fur seals residing in the area in hope of an easy meal. I was walking along the harbour and saw two local fishermen sitting on the water edge with a bucket of pilchards and fish scraps.
As I peered over the water edge I noticed many seals eagerly waiting for a taste of the fishy treats. The fisherman stood up, put the fish tail in his mouth and leaned over the edge. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a seal launch out of the water and take the fish from this man’s mouth. This was certainly behaviour I had never seen from cape fur seals before. I couldn’t manage to walk away, I had to stay and watch as this man repeatedly let the seals take food from his mouth. (see short video here).
He next indicated to one large seal to come out onto the harbour edge and unbelievably the seal jumped a good couple meters out onto the paving alongside the water where he was then rewarded with a juicy fish. As the seals ate the last of the fish they dispersed into the water and I continued along the harbour.
The next time I visited Hout Bay, I first took a walk along the stunning beach and eagerly headed straight for the harbour hoping to catch the fishermen feeding the seals again. As I walked around the corner I noticed the largest seal I have ever seen, chilling out in the harbour next to a bench. The very same fisherman from last time was standing next to him. I immediately went over to talk to him and get a closer look at this amazing, giant animal.
The fisherman told me a sad story about how this seal is the largest and oldest male cape fur seal in the harbour and how there used to be two of them, his mate, who was unfortunately killed by a fishing incident. The fisherman encouraged me to touch the seal, I hesitantly and very gently reached out my hand to stroke his back, only to find he was very friendly, before I knew it I was playing with his flippers, scratching him behind his ears and on his chest.
Besides the horrendous pilchard smell on my hands, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
If you are not looking for a close encounter with a seal, don’t worry, Hout bay harbour also offers many other things to see and do. There are some very interesting market stalls to peruse while in the harbour with many arts and crafts available to purchase. You can take a boat trip to Duiker Island to visit the Cape Fur Seal Colonies, go seal snorkeling and you can go diving or fishing.
If you are looking for a bite to eat you are spoiled for choice with the selection of classic fish and chips shops and restaurants in the area. There is also a fish market you can get some of the locally caught produce. This is a very lively harbour with a lovely atmosphere and certainly worth a visit.