“I didn’t know how far out I’d drifted; I just wanted to keep up with my playmate. Beguiling as a siren, she was there one minute, gone the next. Something was tugging at my foot: I turned around to see her yellow teeth fastened on one of my flippers. Then she floated upwards like a mermaid (it’s called bottling) to engage with me. Eye to eye we watched each other for perhaps 10 seconds, me wanting to stroke her but aware of those playful canines. Her? Well she was just taking a good look at this cumbersome outlander who’d wandered into her watery realm.”
The above quote was written by Richard Waters from The Observer. It describes the magical moment of coming face to face with a female seal in the pristine waters of St. Martins in the Isles of Scilly.
Living on the Great Barrier Reef for 4 years I have had encounters with dolphins, humpback whales and I even came face to face with a reef shark whilst the theme tune of Jaws incessantly ran through my head “Dur dum dur dum dur dum” Okay yes we all know it, so moving on…
FACT: Approximately 2 million tourists flock to this natural marine park off the coast of Cairns, Australia every single year and only 145,000 people visit The Isles of Scilly annually
With this in mind, I can confidently say that this is a pretty unique experience. Seals are also usually skittish creatures that will dash off at 20mph (fact #2) on a boat approaching, let alone a human. However, the magical sub-tropical coastline of Scilly, zero predators, and the respect of the human inhabitants has tamed these beautiful creatures into very fun watery playmates.
When should you book?
Scilly Diving recommends late summer as the best time of year to visit the grey seals as the waters still hold August’s summer warmth and you may be lucky in late September to spot newborn pups. Scilly Seal Snorkelling offers trips to swim with the seals from £42 per person and all equipment and a double layer of wetsuit (the water is a very fresh 12 degrees) is included in this price. Its founder, Tim Allsop, also recently published Underwater Scilly (£24.99) it includes stunning underwater pictures including the one featured above.
Need a place to stay?
Then the luxury hotel Karma St. Martins will be opening for Easter until the 31st October.