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.


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


The largest recorded dive for a seal was almost 5,000 feet (nearly a mile!)


If they reach adulthood, seals can live up to 30 years old!

First off here’s 10 super cool seal facts:


Seals can sleep underwater

Although they are mammals and breath air they can sleep underwater for up to two hours, by slowing their breathing. This makes sense when you remember they can sometimes spend months at sea.

Seals can talk

They communicate with each other by using clicking and drilling noises.

Seals are amazing divers

The largest recorded dive for a seal was almost 5,000 feet (nearly a mile!) .

Seals are protected by international law

In the past humans hunted seals for their fur, meat and blubber, which produced oil.

Seals have a higher blood percentage than any other animals.

Blood cells retains oxygen this means seals can dive down deep into the water.

Seals evolved from bears.

Seals are said to have evolved from land based, bear or otter-like ancestors.

Seals live in organised hierarchical groups.

Generally seals live in large groups with hundreds of members and have a strict hierarchy.

Male Seals don’t eat during mating season

Which can last up to 90 days!

Seals can be trained

Seals are very intelligent animals, some species have been trained for entertainment and can be seen performing in circuses.

Seals have 'smokers blood'

Seals produce as much carbon monoxide as people who smoke 40 or more cigarettes each day.
Seal on the Rocks
Grey Seal Laying on Rock
Seal Tour

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 one of our safaris takes visitors to Seal Cave which is close to Padstow, where you’re guaranteed 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 waters. To put that into perspective, there are less grey seals in the uk than red squirrels. So here at padstow sealife safari we’re lucky we are to see as many as we do on our trips!

Guide to seals in Cornwall and the UK

There are two main types of seal living in the sea around the British Isles: these are the grey seal and the common seal. Both of these seals are quite commonly 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. Grey seals are a fairly common sighting on our safari trips, and, if you’re lucky, you could also spot a common seal or two. Around 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, and then haul themselves on to remote beaches, offshore rocks or sea caves. But they may not be the only seal species you see.

What do seals eat?

They aren’t too fussy, they’re generally bottom feeders – feeding off things like stand eel and sandfish. They are quite opportunistic though and so will chomp down on most things they can grab a hold of! 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 above).  Living off Grey seals mainly live off a diet of fish, squid and crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters, although they’re not too fussy and eat most sources of food.

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 with in those first few weeks the seals will grow up to three times their original birth weight just within those first few weeks. 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 whereas seal lions are members of the ‘eared seal’ family. True seals are like common seals elephant seals leopard seals they have much smaller flippers and no ‘ears’ instead just small holes either sides of their face.

Seals and sea lions are both pinnipeds, which means they walk or waddle using their fins. But, they are very different in appearance. Sea lions have long, front flippers, whereas seals have stubby little front flippers. Seals don’t have any ears just tiny holes in their heads, and sea lions have small flaps for outer ears. Also, sea lions can be very noisy, whereas seals are quiet. Sea lions are more comfortable walking on land than seals and seals are more comfortable in water.

Do seals eat penguins?

In colder climates seals have been known to can eat penguins when they are in the water. Leopard seals, fur seals and also sea lions are known predators of penguins.

Are seals dangerous?

Leopard seals in the Antarctic have been known to kill humans and are classed as dangerous. Here in Cornwall, male seals in particular grow to very large sizes and tourists have been warned of the dangers of swimming with wild seals. Male seals can be territorial and female seals could attack if they feel their pups are threatened. A bite from a seal could be very dangerous for anybody, as seals carry a range of infectious diseases which could cause serious harm. But, rest assured when you’re on board a Padstow Sealife Safari trip, your welfare is our primary concern and our experienced boat crews never put guests on our popular trips in any kind of danger.

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 and 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 pod, a rookery or a herd. You can take your pick!

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.

Do seals bite?

Seals and baby seals look cute and cuddly when they are on land and it’s hard to resist the temptation to get up close and touch one. You should beware, however, that seals will bite, particularly when they feel threatened. Seal bites can easily become infected and they take quite a while to heal. Again, when you take one of our safaris you can be sure your guide will not put you at risk of seal bites.

Should you feed seals?

You should never feed seals as the food you offer could be dangerous for the seal and it could cause illness. What’s more, wild seals are now a common site in St Ives harbour due to the fact that holidaymakers have been feeding them and attracting them into the bay area. In the very worst case scenario, feeding a wild seal means risking bites to hands or arms, if the seal mistakes your arm or hand for food.

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.

Are seals endangered?

Here in the UK the conservation status of resident seals is considered to be of least concern, as they are a protected species and numbers increase year on year. Even though they are rare, they are not endangered. 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.

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