You can never spend enough time in the water with these agile, humorous, and charming pinnipeds. Here are our top five places to dive with seals and sea lions.
Whether you’re a snorkeler, freediver, or scuba dive, everybody loves an ocean encounter with seals—also known as the clowns or puppy dogs of the sea. Luckily, Her are our picks of the top five places to dive with seals and sea lions.
Cape Town, South Africa
Where: Hout Bay
Cape Town is home to rocky shorelines, dense kelp forests, and lots of Cape fur seals, living in two protected kelp areas. Duiker Island in Hout Bay is home to a colony of 5,000 Cape fur seals but bring your drysuit— being situated in the Atlantic Ocean, the water temperature can vary between 46 and 50 F (8 to 10 C). Water time can vary from 45 minutes to an hour, but if you need to get out and warm up, the RIB is always nearby to come and pick you up for a bake in the sun.
Season: The season to dive with seals in South Africa lasts year-round, but the best months fall from September through May.
An extra tip: When the weather conditions are not favorable to dive in Hout Bay it will be favorable to dive in False Bay and vice versa.
Three hours north of Christchurch is the Kaikoura Peninsula, surrounded by the Kaikoura Range, making for a surreal scene where you can lounge on the beach with snowcapped mountains in the background. This spot is the world’s best for in-water encounters with curious New Zealand fur seals. After a briefing by experienced guides, you will get your gear and jump on a bus, which will take you to the boat. From there, it’s a 10-minute boat ride out to the seals. Spend time with the seals in the water, then watch them lounging and baking on the rocks afterward. Hop in the water and observe the playful seals, then watch them lounge and bake on the rocks. Tours can run up to 2.5 hours.
Season: October through May
Sea lions and their smaller, spotted cousins, Pacific harbor seals, are known to play, splash and lounge on the rocks along Breakwater Cove Marina. This spot is particularly suited to scuba, rather than snorkel. Not only does this bay draw sea lions and seals but also the famous—and adorable—sea otters. As a diver, you will do a shore entry and you’ll want to wear at least 7 mm of neoprene or a drysuit as the water temperature can be as cold as 50 F (10 C).
Season: Late May for seals and summer for sea lions
Where: Farne Islands
In the temperate waters of northeast England, you will find the Farne Islands, where boats run charters for divers and snorkelers to interact with the inquisitive gray seals. With a notion to nibble on your fins, these guys will play for hours. Just as you think you may be able to stay a bit longer, the icy 46 F (8 C) water temperature will remind you that it’s time to head back to the boat and warm up with a cozy cup of tea. A 7mm wetsuit or thicker would come highly recommended, but a dry suit will come in even handier.
Season: Late September – October
Where: Hornby Island
While seals and sea lions have agility and speed to their advantage, many divers say that the playful and friendly Steller sea lions take the cake on Hornby Island. The average water temperature is 11 C, so a wetsuit with a minimum of 7 mm is necessary for both snorkelers and scuba divers though—again— you’ll be more comfortable in a drysuit for an encounter with these playful animals.
Season: December through March