Kelbe Photography

Life In A Blink Of An Eye

Cape Cross




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There are cape fur seals along the whole Namibian coast . Often we would find them lying on the sand and think they had been washed up dead until they suddenly come to life and rushed off into the surf. Clearly rest is needed between surfing and fishing in these strong and ferocious seas! They are skittish and it is difficult to get close as they rush back to the water as soon as they become aware of you. And they are surprisingly fast for animals with no legs! Bobbing backsides are therefore the most common photo opportunities.

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It is for this reason that despite the ubiquitous nature of seals on the Namibian coast, Cape Cross, north of Hentjies Bay, draws us for some serious seal time. Here is a permanent colony where they come to mate and pup and so they are in the same place most of the time. They come in large numbers and , because of all the visitors, they have become somewhat habituated to people and will not rush off for the water at the first sight of us. This is helped by the fact that the Namibian Wildlife Reserves have built a boardwalk and fence to separate the seals and people and the seals seem quite happy to lie right up against , and under, the fence even with groups of seal watchers tramping up and down.


Life Cycle




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Around November and December is a particularly busy time as they are pupping and the colony is alive with bleats and calls of pups and mums and with piles of seals collapsed in exhausted sleep. In addition 10 days after pupping the females come into oestrous again and so the big males are beginning to arrive in the colony in preparation for mating and they are posturing and fighting over territory.



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So it's a scene of not so organized chaos really. Pity the small pup who gets rode over by all the activity. In amongst the seals, seagulls, jackals and hyenas are also having a bonanza scavenging the placentas and the dead pups. The smell is ripe with undertones of decomposition and decay and that is an understatement. I am used to bad smells but this is up there amongst the worst!

Camp Site On The Beach



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The problem with Cape Cross is that it is a Namibian wildlife reserve and again you come up against the bureaucracy of opening and closing times with no consideration of photographic light. There is a glimmer of hope , however, and that is the presence of 5 very basic camp sites on the edge of the sea inside the reserve. They are rarely booked because frankly it is a cold and windswept place and just down the road is a cosy brick enclosed lodge but in actual fact it is a diamond in the rough. The sites offer a unobstructed view of the ocean and there are basic wind brakes and a clean long drop toilet.



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Although cold as the sun goes down the wind does eventually die down and we had a fantastic night there alone, (apart from a million seals) , under the stars. Being in the camp site means there is no closing time and so you can stay with the seals all night if you want, and have the stomach for the smell! We were content with the early morning and late afternoon, fabulous light and crashing surf. Dudley had to fight off one enterprising seal who thought he should commandeer the boardwalk for his new territory. A new use for a tripod, seal taming!