Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia
Africa Namibia

Namibia: The Cape Cross Seal Colony

The Skeleton Coast of Namibia has no skeletons and not really any shipwrecks any more but you can imagine the despair of any mariner washed up on this moistureless shore. After the South Atlantic Ocean there is a mini mountain range of grey sand and then the glaring white gravel plains of the Namib Desert.

I took the salt road past the mines to Cape Cross, where back in the 15th century Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao erected a monument at one of the farthest reaches of his 1,400km voyage. There is a replica of his original pillar at Cape Cross.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

The main attraction at Cape Cross is to see one of the largest Cape Fur Seal colonies in the world. If you’ve seen seals in the wild before you’ll know the first thing to hit you is the smell, followed shortly by the noise.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

The Cape Cross Seal Colony is a seething mass of thousands of yelping, moaning, barking, fighting seals. In November it was the middle of the birthing season and distressingly there were many dead pups scattered about. Pups flopped about looking for their mothers.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

Apparently only 30 per cent of pups survive to adulthood and the noise, the blood, the pain and death gave picture of complete chaos. But after about 10 minutes of horrified observation I began to feel involved.

A pup had just been born and the mother was ejecting the placenta. She barked constantly at her new pup, and it gave a mewling reply. A harem gathered around a bull seal, rubbing their heads against his side.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

The sea was thick with swimming, surfing, black and shiny seals. On the beach ‘kindergarten’ groups of pups are surrounded by adults, while mothers are off at sea hunting to replenish their milk supplies.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

It was a scene full of the cycle of life. All I could think was “David Attenborough eat your heart out”. My clothes would stink of seal for hours afterwards.

Cape Cross Seal Colony, Namibia

Controversially, Namibia conducts the second largest seal cull in the world, claiming the seals consume too much of the country’s valuable fishing resource.

Animal protection societies refute this. Culling does take place here at Cape Cross, despite it being a reserve. They close everything off during the cull and won’t let journalists in to observe. Activists are calling for a boycott of Namibian tourism and products.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you ever had a wildlife travel experience you found confronting, like mine at the Cape Cross Seal Colony in Namibia?

Read about a less olfactory and traumatic experience visiting the Australian Sea Lion colony at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island.

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  1. I’ve always thought of Namibia as yellow desert. How extraordinary to find such a busy seal colony there.

  2. I’ve been to that seal colony and remember well the overwhelming stink – but also the coyotes circling the colony and the seals surfing the waves. There has been a lot of misinformation on seals and before culling I’d want to be damn sure about the fish they are eating. Sometimes it’s not the same as what the fisherman are catching. And culls seem to be messing with nature in my opinion.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I agree Leigh, just the defensive and secretive nature of how the cull is carried out makes me suspicious that there really is no justification.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I agree Leigh. The seals are certainly not in anyone’s way out there in the middle of nowhere on the skeleton coast! They are a natural treasure.

  3. Wow, I can’t believe all those seals!

  4. Kim de Jager

    Stop the clubbing of seals!!!! July the slaughter of 85.000 seal pups….
    BOYCOTT NAMBIA, DON’T GO ON A HOLIDAY HERE, or plan a trip to visit this seals….STOP THE CLUBBING OF SEALS 2012!!!!! <3

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I appreciate your comment Kim. When I travelled through Namibia I was kind of winging it and didn’t have much information to hand, or any about the seal cull. But in retrospect I think I can do more by drawing attention to this treasure of a seal colony and the threat it is under.

  5. Wow, that’s a lot of seals. I’m also against culling, especially since likely don’t understand all the implications of doing so.

  6. wow…amazing photos..and yea, I would also have think of Namibia as a gigantic red desert :P. It’s great to see something different and am so excited for my upcoming 10 months Trans-africa trip since I am going there:))

    Need to check out your other posts for Namibia;P

  7. Wow! I’ve seen seal colonies in New Zealand and Australia, but nothing with the numbers of this one! What a spectacle!

  8. OMG- I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many seals all in one place before- what fun!

  9. You got me with the last photo. Those baby seals are adorable. And yet, I am thankf that I can’t smell through my computer. Its so distressing that only a few survive to adulthood.

  10. If Namibia wants the economic benefit of tourism, then they will pay attention to multiple economic studies proving that the seals are worth more as a tourist attraction than as an $8 baby seal pelt.

  11. Natasha, can you contact me with email. I need to speak to you about some thing very important.

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