My Favourite Dive of All Time
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Scuba diving with seals is a completely different kind of dive. This dive happened in Cape Town, South Africa. The December waters were cold, but with a 14mm wetsuit (a long 7mm topped by a 7mm shortie), hood, boots and gloves it was tolerable. I only had my Open Water license at this time, but I would recommend divers come to this dive with either an Advanced license or at least very good buoyancy skills.
I dive left from Simons Town, which looks out towards Fraser's Bay, just on the east side of the Cape of Good Hope. This is actually a fascinating area to dive in considering all of the ships that have met their doom attempting to round the Cape of Good Hope since Vasco da Gama's immortalized voyage at the end of the 15th century. But I wasn't here to see shipwrecks, I wanted to see the seals.
After getting our gear organized and our wetsuits on, we loaded into two zodiac boats and sped off into the morning waves. Twenty very shaky minutes later, I spotted a giant rock in the ocean which, defying all laws of physics, seemed to be moving. As we motored closer towards it, I realized that this rock was actually completely covered in seals. Their big fat black bodies piled on top of each other in slippery heaps. Like a very bad game of dominoes, once any seal made even the slightest of adjustments he would inadvertently push off another two or three seals who'd unceremoniously collide with each other as they tumbled off the rock and splashed into the ocean. The safest part of the rock, the high middle, was occupied by the biggest and oldest seals. There was no pushing them off the rock. Radiating out from the middle were increasingly younger seals and the pups, youngest of all, were on the very rim of the rock. This suited them just fine as they only wanted to flop into the ocean do a few laps and climb back up to repeat it all over again. It would be these young pups that would come out to meet us on our dive. I thought my heart would burst out of my chest with excitement.
I started blowing bubbles as soon as I descended. Sure enough, within a few minutes one curious seal made his way over to our group to investigate the invaders.
There is no greater feeling of awe than interacting with completely wild animals that could potentially rip you to shreds, but instead are chilling with you like your best bud from high school. In fact, I got so carried away swimming with my new aquatic friends, that I completely forgot that these untamed seals could be dangerous and I had nothing to defend myself with in the open ocean outside of feeding them my GoPro and hoping it tastes like a good wet fish. I say "them" because at one point I had five juvenile seals happily swimming circles around me as if were playing Ring Around the Rosie. On the boat ride to the seal dive spot, my Dive Master mindlessly professed that seals are highly attracted to flamboyantly entertaining divers all I had to do was clap my hands and blow bubbles I'd be the talk of the ocean.
The faster the seals swam around me, the more enthused I became to keep up with them. Forgetting all the limitations of my air cylinder, I started chasing after a seal, blowing bubbles and clapping my hands. To my absolute delight a second seal, and then the third, joined our group play date. I lost track of time and forgot to check my air until finally the open mouth of a seal and all of his tiny little pointy teeth swimming a couple of inches away from my face shocked me back into reality. Looking around I realized that there were no less than five seals with me, and telltale bubbles coming from the other divers were least 15m away from me. Oops. First rule of diving: don't separate from your buddy. Equally importantly: check your air regularly and don't act like a gymnast warming up for the Olympics. I was significantly low on air and this fun adventure would now have to come to an end.
In my absent minded play with the seals, I didn't focus too much on attempting to win cinematography awards so I apologize for the shakiness of this video. Although if anything, I think it conveys perfectly the exact level of awesomeness that was this dive.
If you want to dive with seals, I would highly recommend getting at least 15 dives under your belt and getting proficient at maintaining good buoyancy and trim. This is not a good dive for beginners as you risk getting overly excited or scared and running out of air.
Would I do this dive again? I think you know, Absolutely!
Dive Shop I used: Pisces Divers.
Where I stayed: AirBnB.