So its mid winter and the sky is blue and clear. The air is crisp and the water is a refreshing 14-15C. Most divers pack up their gear at the start of may and don’t think about diving in NZ until labour day. We on the other hand are loading up our dive boat for another epic winter diving adventure! The departure of summer crew and the lowering water temp can only mean one thing… It’s time to dive with SEALS!!!!
During the winter, months NZ fur seals make their way up the coast to the Bay of Islands and Cavalli Islands. The majority of these are small males that set up a non breeding bachelor pad called a haul-out to practice fighting, eat some fish and pack on weight so that come October they are in with a chance of holding a spot in a breeding territory called a rookerie.
These young males can be amazing to dive with. At a number of spots in the Bay of Islands and the Cavalli Islands we get to observe them barking at each other and competing for space on only the comfiest of rocks! Whilst we are diving they seem to get more and more inquisitive and as soon as they realise that there are divers bubbles approaching they come bounding in. They seem to have very differing personalities, some will zoom around between the divers at lightning speed while others will lazily stare down from the surface. Others will hide behind a diver and wont be seen until the last minute. Nearly all of them will fly past you at one time or another and gape at you showing some very large teeth. This can be startling to those not used to it, however, it is merely a show of dominance with the seal demonstrating how tough and agile they are.
I used to be able to set my watch by the arrival and departure of the seals but the last 2yrs have been a different story. This year particularly saw a large number (15-20) stay put all year at the cape brett lighthouse and a smaller number (5-10) stay in the cavalli islands.Maybe this is a sign of things to come and we will see a breeding population form up here who knows? All i can say is I love diving with these awesome underwater dogs!