Seal watching

Grey seals are seen all around the island either swimming through the clear water or most noticeably when hauled out on rocks. As the tide recedes, intertidal rocks become exposed at low tide and they often bask on these rocks at favoured locations around the island. Observing basking seals from a distance using binoculars or telescope is advisable as it enhances the viewing experience and avoids disturbing them at rest. Watching seals interacting naturally is often rewarded by characteristic behavioural displays which make them some of the most charismatic animals to observe both on land and in the water.

On Lundy there are several great locations for watching seals hauled out.  In particular Gannets’ Bay and Brazen Ward where numerous seals haul out in these often sheltered eastern bays.  Off the northern point of the island, seals regularly bask on the small islets at low tide and at the south end of Lundy they can frequently be seen in Devils Kitchen and at Surf Point.

Seals are quite vocal and their repertoire extends to haunting calls, snorts and growls which are often amplified by the bays and caves where the seals are hauled out.  These sounds carry long distances over water and it is common to hear the seals long before you see them. 

Bottling and logging

The head of the grey seal is sometimes all you see of the animal in the water as they rest with their nose and head just clear of the sea surface this is known as ‘bottling’ as they look like a bottle bobbing in the water.  Logging is when the seal floats on its side in the water.  They can remain in these positions for some time idly being carried by the gentle swaying motion of the waves.

In the water seals can swim fast and average 4 to 5 km per hour covering large distances.  They can dive to depths of 70 metres holding their breath for around 12 minutes before returning to the surface to breath – they can even sleep on the seafloor!  So don’t be surprised if the seal you were watching dive doesn’t resurface in the same area!

Underwater

Diving and snorkelling with seals adds a new, exciting dimension to seal encounters.  Young seals are inquisitive and engaging underwater. They have been known to tug on divers’ fins or peer at snorkellers suspiciously through the seaweed.  On land seals can appear heavy and cumbersome and it’s not until they enter the water that their streamlined shape reveals its true benefit and grace.  Using their hind flippers for propulsion they alternately use their front flippers while swimming along. They perform acrobatic turns and twists in the water while closely observing human intruders in their environment. 

It is easy to forget that these are wild animals that should always be treated with respect and caution.  An appropriate distance should be maintained whether on land or in the water.  However, to gain maximum enjoyment from your encounter whist ensuring your own wellbeing and that of the seals, please remember...

• You are a visitor in their natural environment.

• Treat them with respect and keep your distance

• When underwater, for the best chance of a close up encounter, let them come to you. Never chase after a seal (they are far better swimmers and will be scared away).

• Do not try to chase, stroke or touch a seal, no matter how inquisitive either you or the seal becomes.  They are wild animals and should not be allowed to become over confident in the presence of humans.

To download a copy of our Seal Code of Conduct please click here

Seal Monitoring on Lundy

The seals on Lundy are regularly surveyed by the Wardens. The most recent comprehensive survey of Lundy’s seals was carried out in 2008. We are creating a Lundy seal photo ID database so that we can record and follow individual seals, some of which are thought to cover vast distances between Wales, the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall and even France! If you would like to add your images to the database please upload them onto our Flickr group: Lundy Seals

  • © Nick Tyson
  • Haulling out at Brazen Ward © Jennifer Ellis
  • © Alex Mustard
  • © Dan Murphy
  • © Mike Deaton
  • Haulled out on the Knoll Pins © Derek Green
  • © Dan Murphy
  • © Alex Mustard

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Copyright Lundy MCZ 2017