Your Chance To Spot Seals in Cornwall!

We are blessed that we have a thriving community of seals in Cornwall.

We Love Seals!

The close knit team at Padstow Sealife Safaris adore taking visitors out spotting the grey seals that are so plentiful around the Cornwall coast. We’ve got lots of information about seals in Cornwall packed into this useful guide, so when you come seal spotting off Padstow, you’ll be clued up on these beautiful sea mammals.

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The UK is home to 40% of the grey seal population!

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A Cornish seal pup was recorded travelling over 1000km during its first 3 months of life.

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If they reach adulthood, seals can live up to 40 years old!

First off here’s 10 super cool seal facts:

1

Seals can sleep in the water

Grey seals sleep in the water by "bottling" (floating upright) or "logging" (floating horizontally) at the surface with their noses in the air. They may even sink down to the seafloor to rest for short periods before floating back up to breath. Seals keep half of their brain awake while they sleep to keep an eye out for predators and so they don't drown.
2

Seals are amazing divers

Grey seals can dive down to 300 metres (over 1,000 feet).
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Seals can talk

Although grey seals don't always make noise, they have been known to snarl, hiss, growl, and caterwaul. The pups make a crying sound like a baby. They can also communicate underwater with clicks and moans.
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Seals have a higher blood percentage than humans

Red blood cells contain oxygen, so having lots of blood means seals can dive for long periods on one breath, storing oxygen in their blood.r.
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seals are protected in the uk

In the UK, seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970.
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Seal whiskers are 5 times more sensitive than cat whiskers

Seals whiskers are highly sensitive helping them to feel out and chase prey. Even blind seals can still hunt effectively in the wild using their other senses to help them hunt.
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Seals get a new coat every year

Each spring, grey seals spend 2-3 weeks shedding their entire outer coat of fur and growing a new one, spending most of this time on land. They often go a brownish-orange colour as they lose the pigment in their shedding fur.
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Young seal pups can travel huge distances

Once seal pups separate from their mothers, they explore the coast over great distances to suss out where is best to find food, rest and shelter. One Cornish pop was recorded traveling over 1000km, visiting four different countries, just in its first 3 months of life!
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Seals are the largest land breeding mammal in the uk

Grey seals are the largest species of mammal to naturally breed on land in the UK with males often weighing in at over 300kgs.
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Seals evolved from bears.

Seals are said to have evolved from land based, bear or otter-like ancestors.
Seal on the Rocks
Grey Seal Laying on Rock
gray seal shark dolphin padstow sealife safaris
Mummy and baby seals

Where are grey seals located in the UK?

Grey seals are mostly located in the colder, northern waters of the UK. However, there are also significant breeding colonies situated off the coast of Lincolnshire, Wales, Northumberland, and the Orkney Isles. Here in Cornwall, grey seals are a fairly common sight off the coastline and our safaris often take visitors to Seals Cave which is close to Padstow, where you’re likely to spot some grey seals.

Grey seals are actually a globally rare species. We’ve got about 40% of the world grey seal population just in UK waters. However, to put it into perspective, there are still fewer grey seals in the UK than red squirrels. So here at Padstow Sealife Safaris, we’re lucky to see as many as we do on our trips!

Guide to seals in Cornwall and the UK

There are two main species of seal living in the seas around the British Isles: the grey seal and the common seal. Surprisingly, the common seal is actually far less common than the grey seal but both can found around the coastline and are protected species. Other seals occasionally visiting British waters include the harp seal, the ringed seal and the hooded seal, but it’s doubtful you’ll see these on your Padstow Sealife Safari. Although common seal sightings in Cornwall are rare, grey seals are a regular sighting on our safari trips. Just under half of the world’s grey seal population lives in the waters around Britain, and their numbers have doubled since the 1960s. Check out our grey seal FAQs to find out more.

Seal spotting off Padstow

Though they are a common sight on Padstow Sealife Safari, that doesn’t mean they are easy to find in general – it’s just that we know where to look. Grey seals play and hunt at sea at high tide, and then haul themselves on to remote beaches, offshore rocks or sea caves to rest and digest their food at low tide. Keep an eye out for their curious heads popping up out of the water or them blending in with the rocks having a sunbathe!

Seal head above water

What do seals eat?

Grey seals are generally bottom feeders – feeding on things like sand eel and dragonet. In Cornish waters, they will also feed on mackerel and herring as well as flatfish, skates, and rays. They are quite opportunistic though and so will chomp down on most things they can grab a hold of including, squid and crustaceans, like crabs and lobster. For the bigger meals that are too awkward to swallow down in one, they’ll hold in their flippers on the surface and tear chunks off (just like the picture).

Are seals mammals?

Yes, seals are mammals, which means they’re warm-blooded, feed their young with milk, and breathe air. They’ve adapted to doing this all while living on the water. Pretty amazing if you ask us!

What is a baby seal called?

A baby seal is known as a pup and a female will produce just one pup each year. She feeds her pup with milk she produces in her mammary glands which has extremely high-fat content (about 60% fat) in order to build up the pup’s blubber reserves so it can survive in the cold sea water.

A pup only stays with its mother for the first three weeks of its life so every drop of milk counts. In fact, just within those first few weeks, the seals will grow up to three times their original birth weight. After that their mother heads off and leaves them to discover the world on their own.

What’s the difference between a seal and a sea lion?

Seals are members of the ‘true seal’ family which includes grey seals, common (or harbour) seals, leopard seals and elephant seals; whereas seal lions are members of the ‘eared seal’ family which also includes fur seals. Seals and sea lions are both pinnipeds, meaning “winged foot”, referring to their webbed flippers. True seals have much smaller flippers and caterpillar along on the land to move. They also do not have external ‘ears’, instead just small holes either sides of their head. Eared seals have longer flippers with their hind flippers bending under their body like feet, enabling them to waddle on land and be faster and more agile in the water. They also have external ear flaps.

Are seals dangerous?

Here in Cornwall, male seals, in particular, grow to very large sizes. Like all animals, seals can be territorial, will defend themselves if they feel threatened and female seals will be protective of their pups. It is advised never to approach a seal, try to touch one, or swim with them as they may be unsure of your intentions and get defensive. As long as seals are treated with respect and given the space they need, they are beautiful animals to observe.  Rest assured when you’re on board a Padstow Sealife Safari trip, we keep a respectful distance and monitor the seals’ body language to ensure they are happy and calm in our presence.

Are seals related to dogs?

There are no close connections between seals and dogs which is surprising especially as the grey seal is known for its Labrador shaped head.  Seals, dogs and also bears are all part of the Caniformes group of animals, which means dog-like, and both seals and dogs are mammals but that’s as close as they come.

What is a group of seals called?

A group of seals is known as a colony, a rookery or a herd. However, grey seals are often solitary and will hunt and travel alone, only coming together to rest in safe places or to breed.

What noise does a seal make?

Seals can make a variety of noises, including honks, snarls, hissing, and roars. Pups make noises similar to crying, human babies.

Should you feed seals?

You should NEVER feed seals! Seals are extremely efficient hunters and do not need handouts from people. Feeding seals create an association between boats or people and food, and if seals become accustomed to coming close to boats, they are then at high risk of a boat strike. Humans dangling a fish for a seal put themselves at risk of a very nasty bite if the seal mistakes your arm or hand or food.

Are seals endangered?

Grey Seal numbers in the UK have recovered from a huge decline when they were previously hunted and have now reached steady numbers. Here in the UK, the conservation status of resident seals is considered to be of least concern. Even though they are rare, they are not endangered but they are a protected species. Elsewhere in the world, some species are endangered and their natural habitats are under continual threat.

Best way to spot seals off Cornwall

Using our expertise and experience, we can help you track down these lovable creatures during your visit to Cornwall. You have the option of a two-hour Sealife Safari boat trip. Or, you could go straight to Seal Cave on a one-hour boat trip for the best possible chance of seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Well, there you have it. If you need to know anything more about seals in Cornwall and the UK, feel free to ask any of the team at Padstow Sealife Safaris, we’re more than happy to answer your queries.

That Face… The first time you see a seals head pop up…