From Walvis Bay, we drove up to the Skeleton Coast, which, technically, is the Namibian coast between the Kunene River and the Swakop River.
What are the skeletons on the coast, you wonder.
They’re wrecked ships. The name “Skeleton Coast” originated as the title for John Henry Marsh’s book about a shipwreck, and it was so apt, it stuck. Before the advent of modern navigation equipment, this coast, with its extreme wind and fog, was treacherous.
But it wasn’t the shipwrecks we were out to see. Nor was it the shore fisherfolks, though there were plenty of those, too. We were out to see Cape fur seals.
The Namibian coast is home to many fur seal colonies, and we visited one of the largest at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. One source says there might be 80,000–100,000 animals here during the peak season. We heard and smelled them all. Pyooo!
We saw a good many, too.
Pups are born in November and December, so we got to see them while they were still young, dark colored, and nursing, if they were able to find their mothers. Once they start going to sea to eat, I’m not sure reconnecting with Mom is guaranteed.
Imagine trying to locate your mother in this mob.
Young ones bleat. Old ones bark and rumble in response. Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise!
Now, let’s get something straight. See those ears? Those walking flippers? These are seals only in name; in fact, they’re sea lions.
Lucky pups reconnect with Mom, but not every pup is lucky. We saw and smelled several dead ones on the beach, and this was well after the most vulnerable period for pups.
The seal reserve has a boardwalk that allows human visitors to walk through a small area of the colony. The animals are habituated and mostly don’t seem to mind the intrusion. They surround the boardwalk, though, and will bark if a visitor walks too near when going from the parking lot to the boardwalk.
The sea lions have taken over the picnic area, and they’ve even moved onto one end of the boardwalk, rendering it closed to humans.
Once on the boardwalk, we’re deemed okay, even as we walk overhead, kneel down beside them, shake hands, and exit near their usurped part of the boardwalk.
Humans. So what?
Well, actually, this isn’t always true. Annually, beginning in July, young sea lions here at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve are killed for an overseas fur market. It’s a grim business, and, of course, it’s a source of controversy, which I will not address here.
The beach provides myriad comforts.
A welcome respite from the rolling sea.
We spent a good long time with the sea lions and came away with not just photos, memories, and ideas, but also the smell. A couple of hours amongst the adorable, stinky things and our clothes reeked!