Namibia’s Cape Cross Seal Colony
The Skeleton Coast is famous for being arid and lacking in life, but this could hardly be said of the Cape Cross Sea Reserve. Here, you will find up to 200,000 Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) the only place in the world they are to be found. Visiting, the first thing to hit you will probably be the smell. Seal colonies are not the most pleasant smelling places, but if you can get used to it there is much fascinating observation that can be done here.
Mid October is the time of year when the bulls come ashore to establish their territory for the breeding season. Fights are commonplace and most bulls lose much of their bodyweight by expending energy on combat. Females follow and similarly fight to establish territory before joining ‘harems’ of the victorious bull seals. It takes eight months from conception for a seal pup to be born, and this normally happens in November or December. 70 percent of the pups will survive the jackals and hyenas, although more will perish (along with their parents) in the jaws of sharks and killer whales offshore.
The cape was named by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Câo in 1486 when he stopped here looking for a route to India going south of Africa. The cross he erected led to the name ‘Cape Cross’, although Câo disappeared a short time later, most likely ending up as a skeleton in the desert.