Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blenheim - Day 3 - Kaikoura Road Trip with the Girls - Part 2 - The Seals

The Seals were quite something. Again - despite being on crutches I was climbing onto Rocks to get closer to them - the closer the better.

If I got too close - they would bark at me to warn me off. Or they would simply slide into the sea. Some didn't care either way!!

I guess the sun was too warm, and they were too full of fish to care. I googled this information to learn about them - but thought it would be good to put in here too. The photos in between are all mine!

The New Zealand Fur Seal is only found on the coasts of New Zealand and it’s sub-Antarctic islands with a few colonies on the south coast of Australia. Unlike true seals they have visible ears and do not have a blubber layer so they have fur for warmth. The fur is in two layers. The outer layer of stiffer hairs is silvery brown when dry with the inner layer of soft water proof fur being reddish brown.

Male Fur Seals grow up to about 2 metres in length and weigh up to about 200kg. They have very thick necks and appear to have a mane. Because of this they are sometimes mistakenly called “sealions”. Females are of slimmer build and only weigh up to about 100kg.

During the breeding season, November to December, they are territorial and become very aggressive if approached to closely. Extreme care should be exercised if there are pups about or when you are between the sea and the seals. If a seal decides to make a run for the water it is not about to stop for you and a 100+kg of seal on top of you is no joke! They also have very large and dirty teeth. which can and do inflict serious injuries which WILL infect.

They have only bred in the Kaikoura area since about 1985, the population here being a transient one of approximately 2,000 with the greatest numbers occurring in winter. There are four main haul out areas along the Kaikoura coast.

Today seals are again finding themselves at the center of interest to commercial operators but this time it is in a passive way that the seals themselves seem to find very entertaining. Once in the water the seals are extremely agile and nosy creatures that love to show off their skills to the clumsy invaders of their realm. Seal Swimming with an experienced guide is highly recommended and a truly amazing event. To mingle with wild animals in their own environment is something few people will ever forget

We did get very close to one seal which started heaving and heaving, and then regurgitated up some orange sputum or fish. Luckily I was not too close - one more step and I would have probably worn it!

Going back to the car, I found some 'fur' on the beach and picked it up. Incredibly soft with a beautiful texture. I really enjoyed this part of hte trip. Be thankful I only uploaded this many pics of them - becuase I took 10x as many as on here!

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