6 Best Places to See Seals and Sea Lions

Seals and sea lions are always a pleasure to see in the water or on the shore. If you have ever seen them basking on the beach, you might assume that they are always quite lazy and relaxed, however, seals and sea lions can reach speeds of up to 20mph when they are in the water! …And they like to put on quite the show for snorkelers and scuba divers.

There are opportunities to see these playful ocean mammals in waters all over the world, so If you are looking to spot seals and sea lions in the wild this year, we are here to help you decide where to go.

We have put together a list of our six best places to see seals and sea lions around the world, and we are going to look at the key differences between the species… So you know exactly what you are looking at when you get there!

We hope these six places get your seal of approval! (sorry)

Would you love to learn all about marine mammals? Why not sign up for the SSI Marine Mammal Ecology program?

What is the difference between seals and sea lions?

To the untrained eye, seals and sea lions might look almost indistinguishable, but although they do come from the same group of marine mammals (along with walruses) called ‘pinnipeds’ (meaning ‘flipper/fin-footed’ in latin), there are some things to look out for to help you to differentiate between them. Firstly, seals have stubby and furry front feet, with thinly webbed flippers and a small claw on each of the smallest toes. Whereas sea lions have larger, elongated, skin covered front flippers. Secondly, seals do not have visible external ears, whereas sea lions have noticeable (yet quite small) outer ears. The third way that you might be able to tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion is that sea lions tend to be very noisy; making loud barks, grunts, and roars to communicate with each other. Seals on the other hand tend to make quieter squeaks. Lastly, seals are more adapted to life in the water than they are on land and will move along the land with some difficulty, whereas sea lions are more able to move along the land thanks to the shape and size of their front flippers.

Dolphins are also amazing to see in the water, check out our 4 Best Places to See Dolphins in the Wild

1.Cornwall, UK

When you think of great diving, your mind probably does not instantly think of the UK (if you have never dived there), however the UK actually has some of the most beautiful underwater scenery in the world. What the UK lacks in corals and tropical fish, it more than makes up for in wrecks, kelp, rock formations, and …seals! Cornwall in particular is a hotspot for gray and common seals, with many coming very close to divers and swimmers. If you want to spot seals in Cornwall, it is best to visit in the summer months between June and September so that you can warm up in the sun after being in the water. But you do not necessarily have to get wet to see them; many seals can be seen from the beaches and coastal walks around Cornwall year-round.

Want to dive in more places around the UK? Here are our 8 Best Dive Spots Around the UK

2. La Paz, Mexico

La Paz is one of the best places in the world to see sea lions, with them often being spotted swimming along the coast, taking a rest on the local beaches, and congregating at the sea lion colony of Los Isolates (approximately 1.5hr boat ride from La Paz). Many tour companies offer diving and snorkeling excursions to Los Isolates to get up close and personal with the sea lions. Breeding time at the colony is between June and August and trips are stopped during this time as the males can become aggressive. The rest of the year, you can go and experience some very cheeky sea lions playing in your bubbles, tugging at your fins, and swimming around you for as long as you will let them.

3. Isle of Shoals, USA

Seven miles from the New Hampshire shore sits Duck Island; the most northeastern island of the Shoals, and a place where gray and harbor seals gather year-round. It is said that over 100 seals can be seen in the summer months and the winter months can bring over 800! It is possible to scuba dive with the seals here, but if you want to stay dry you can just as easily see them basking on the shore.

Want to head to warmer waters for your next scuba adventure? Check out our 9 Best Dive Spots in the Middle East and Africa

4. Cape Town, South Africa

There are many spots around Cape Town where seals can be seen from the shore and where divers and snorkelers can swim with them. Duiker Island, Partridge Point, and Strawberry Rock are three of the top places to head to for the best seal encounters in Cape Town. The cape fur seal is resident in the area, but other species can also be spotted. September to May is the best time to get in the water with the seals as this is when the water is warmest and the most seal pups are confidently swimming around. The winter months of June to August should be avoided due to strong winter winds and big waves.

5. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are often high on the bucket list of most travelers and divers, with some of the most varied wildlife to be encountered both in and out of the water. It is said that fur seals and galapagos sea lions can be found underwater at pretty much every dive site around the islands, as well as basking on the shores in their hundreds. The marine life in the Galapagos Islands is protected by law and this is why the seals and sea lions will allow you to walk right by them on the beaches without fear, and why the islands promise what is arguably the best scuba diving in the world.

Would you also love to see whales in the wild? Here are our 8 Best Places to See Whales in the Wild

6. Montague Island, Australia

Around 4.5hrs from Sydney is the small town of Narooma, from here you can get to Montague Island in just ten minutes by boat. The island is home to both Australian and New Zealand fur seals that love to play with divers and snorkelers year-round. The seal pups are notoriously curious and playful with divers and are certainly not shy to get close. You might also spot gray nurse sharks, d olphins, and turtles around Montague Island, if you are lucky.

Where will you head first to see seals and sea lions?