An early morning start – 07:45 – to make the most of the prevailing weather conditions, we meet for a coffee before setting off on the 40km scenic drive to Pelican Point. As we set off in the 4×4 across the ocean edge of the Namib desert, a drive we’re told will take about 45 minutes, and which turns out to be almost as rewarding as the kayaking.
We pass one of the largest salt pans in the world, past protected wetlands with flocks of bright pink flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, various waders, seabirds and even a few black backed jackals, a shipwreck and a lighthouse – which is now a lodge. Our guide tells us this area is one of the most important wetlands in Southern Africa and is home to over 200 000 birds.The photographic opportunities are endless, I could spend the whole day out here.
When we arrive at the point where we will kayak from, we can already see the seals a little way off. This is the reason we are here – to kayak with these Cape Fur Seals – also known as Brown or African fur Seals. Fur seals are not true seals as they have external ear flaps and are closely related to sea lions. These seals are however, some of the most social and inquisitive animals in our ocean, allowing us to experience them up close and personal in their natural environment without any interference.
Fur seals used to be numerous along the African coast but due to hunting and habitat loss, are only found in a few remaining colonies.
On some of these kayak trips, they have been lucky with sightings of Dolphins – Heaviside, Benguela and Bottlenose are the most common, as well as sunfish and humpback whales – we will keep an eye for them.
Although I have been Kayaking for many years – in fact bought my first kayak from our guide, Jean Meintjes, in 1999 while living on the Skeleton Coast – where I lived close to a seal colony, a very smelly experience – however here, one does not have to be an experienced kayaker and neither will you have to go through the aromatic experience I did, so much more pleasant.
Jean goes through a safety briefing and shows our group some basic kayaking skills – we are a group of 7. Then it is time to gear up – we are given warm jackets, waterproof trousers, neoprene shoes, lifejackets, dry bags for our cameras and bottled water. Single and Double Kayaks are available – I have opted for a single Kayak.
The lovely thing about this trip is that after you are given some tips, you can head out, always keeping the others in sight. You become your own skipper and can go as fast or slow as you like, and you can interact as much or as little with the seals. Jean keeps a protective eye on us all, paddling up to each of us to offer some interesting information, and check how we are doing,
The seals enjoy jumping next to the kayaks, swimming under and then popping up next to you, biting onto your oar, splashing and generally just being inquisitive – especially the youngsters. They are playful and beautiful, creating memorable interactions with all the kayaks. It’s hard not to fall in love with them.
We spend around 2 hours out on the water before heading back to the beach for a light lunch. We are still close enough to photograph seals and birds nearby and a few of us wander over to them. A lovely relaxed atmosphere with a group of people who can’t stop smiling.
Around 1pm we are back in Walvis Bay – an excellent and memorable 5 hours.