Sunday, April 18, 2010

simons town and seal island

Yesterday, Jess, Betsy, Elizabeth, Christina, Mark, and I took a train to Simons Town for a boat tour of Seal Island. It took us about an hour by train to get there. We spent a couple hours walking around the town, eating at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the bay, exploring the shops, and then wandering down to the dock. We ended up being the only people that signed up for the 2:30 tour, so the five of us had a private boat tour with the skipper! It was about an hour and a half round trip tour, and the boat ride was bouncy, windy, and a lot of fun. When we approached Seal Island, the skipper slowed the boat so we could watch out for any other forms of wildlife. Apparently the morning tour spotted orca whales! We weren't so fortunate, but the seals were certainly enough to satisfy my wildlife quota for the day.

Seal Island is TINY (300 by 80 meters) and composed of solid granite. No vegetation, just rock. And it is COMPLETELY covered with seals. There were quite a few birds perched on the island, and we saw three young penguins among the seals, but the rest of the island was essentially solid seal chaos. The surrounding water was full of seals playing, swimming, and fighting the waves to get back on shore. The surrounding waters are called the "kill zone," because that's where sharks snag a seal snack, while the seals are returning home from a day of hunting.

Part of Seal Island... seals covered the whole island this densely!

The water was beautiful, and the views of the mountains from the ocean were stunning. There was a boat doing shark cage diving right next to us near Seal Island, so they were tossing out a giant chunk of tuna and a fake seal to draw sharks... that was a little nerve-wracking. A shark came right as we were near them, but it was just far enough away that we couldn't see it. If you don't know what shark cage diving is, they essentially drop a big cage into the water, and a person hangs out underwater in the cage... then they bait sharks to the vicinity, so that the person can see a shark up close and personal, while (hopefully) protected from consumption by the cage.

The boat doing shark cage diving. You can also get an idea of how small Seal Island is from this picture.

I wish I had taken more pictures of Simons Town itself (it's difficult to snap pictures when both hand are occupied by crutches!). There are a lot of cute little restaurants and shops all along the main road, and I would love to go back stay longer. Jess, Mark, and Christina stayed the night in a backpacker's lodge. Several others joined them this morning to go sea kayaking! I'm hoping to do the same when I'm a bit more mobile.

1 comment:

  1. I love your pictures! It must have been crazy to see that many seals at one time.