Who doesn’t find little seal pups adorable? The GIFs of them sliding across the shore puts a smile on anyone’s face. Seal Watching Harwich are a boat tour agency who provide the opportunity to see them up close, and Willow and I were lucky enough to be invited on a trip with them.
Our reservation confirmation outlined a few close pay and display parking areas for our arrival, and we were lucky enough to find a space in the Quay, which is a minute’s walk from the harbour. I recommend leaving yourself some time just in case that one is full and you need to go to Wellington Road, another parking destination. We walked down to Half Penny Pier, looking for Gloria the boat who departs from the same pontoon. A very friendly shop assistant pointed out Gloria, a yellow 41-seater boat. Seal Watching Harwich also have a 10-man boat called ‘Seal Spotter’, which is faster due to the smaller capacity. On this occasion we were happy to be on Gloria, as we were going to be handling a lot of filming equipment and losing a GoPro overboard wouldn’t be the best! Skipper Chris welcomed us onto his boat, which was already filled with guests excited to see some seals.
It wasn’t long before we were off and heading for Hamford Water Nature Reserve, otherwise known as Oakley Creek. The wind was cold, but this wasn’t an issue as Chris had lots of thick blankets to go around. This made the 40-minute water ride to the creek comfortable and warm, and the sun finally made an appearance, creating beautiful pictures as it glistened on the waves. There were speakers providing occasional commentary throughout the trip, full of insightful facts about our local seal population.
When we arrived at the peaceful nature reserve, it wasn’t long before we saw large groups of seals resting on the mudbanks, enjoying the sun. We were all given binoculars, and as the boat slowly moved around the tidal creek, we watched in wonder. Some seals became curious and slid into the water to greet us. Their heads would pop out of the water, disappear back down again, and re-emerge in a completely different location! This helped our seal spotting techniques to develop quickly, and we all helped each other in spotting the speedy creatures. Seals can travel up to 23 mph, and their two sets of flippers enable them to gracefully glide through the water. No wonder we were being easily tricked by them!
Chris pointed out the many seal pups who stuck close to their mothers. He also explained that they can double in size and weight in the space of a week! During the winter months there are around 40 seals in the creek, compared to 150 in the Summer! I can see why these trips are incredibly popular, as you are guaranteed to see lots of Harbour and Grey seals. Make sure your cameras have lots of charge, as I swear they love to pose for you!
We had a brilliant time seal watching. Willow and I would like to say a big thank you to Chris and Seal Watching Harwich for having us! This experience has definitely got my ‘seal’ of approval!