A highlight of our trip to Kaikoura last weekend was the fur seals. There are hundreds of them, all down the Kaikoura Coast, but one spot in particular had hit the news the week before. A small stream at Ohau Point has provided a safe refuge and playground for the last five or six years for groups of fur seal pups. The 10 minute walk up the gully takes you to a small waterfall cascading into a pond. The pond contained more than 30 baby fur seals, looking very cute and having a great time.
Others are having a relaxing time on their own, playing around in the stream.
But most of them were in the pool. For the photographers, good images were very hard to come by. The light levels were extremely low, even on a bright sunny day, and the action was very fast.
Because of recent TV coverage, almost every tourist driving down the coast road made a point of stopping off to look at them. I saw one woman plonk her 2-year old daughter right down beside a seal pup. “It’ll be alright” she said when I gave her a look. I’m sure she was right, I wasn’t worried about the seal. Quite a few of the pups had bite marks from their play and I’m told that first seal bites can be quite unpleasant. Just look at these two playing and you’ll get the idea:
[a postscript from a doctor friend upon reading this: “I have seen the results of seal bites. Seals are wild and carnivorous – like wolves. Mothers are very protective of their babies. People should remember this when coming close – “swimming with the seals” – a popular tourist activity, is DAFT (and dangerous).” He’s quite right, and she was indeed daft.]
Out on the coast itself, conditions for photography were a lot better. Here are some examples:
What a life!
There are some rules to be followed when moving around on this rocky shore. For example, it’s not a good idea to get between an adult fur seal and the water, or between a mother and her pup. The adults can move very quickly. I was thinking of this as I moved around a large rock to find a young pup just a couple of metres in front of me. ” Sorry” I said as I backed off, turning around to see its mother about 4 m away on the opposite side, her grunts telling me to p*** off in seal language. So I did, rapidly.
Finally, there was a classic signpost at the beginning of the track:
Fortunately none crossed under the rail bridge when we were walking through.