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Tourism and Animals

Seal Viewing

Seals hauled out on land, rock or ice are sensitive to boats and human presence. Noises, smells and sights may elicit a reaction. Be aware of seal behavior that indicates a seal has been disturbed.

Such behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • an increase in alert or vigilance.
  • head turning, change in posture from lying to erect.
  • hurriedly moving away from the approaching vessel.
  • open mouth threat displays (almost like a yawn).
  • aggressive displays or bluff charges in your direction.

In short, any seal response other than a raised head should be avoided.

General guidelines for viewing hauled-out seals:

  • Suggested minimum distances ashore are 5-10 meters/16-33 feet (25 meters/82 feet from jousting bulls).
  • When viewing seals do not surround or separate them, especially mothers and pups. Stay on the side where they can see you.
  • On beaches, avoid getting between seals and the sea.
  • Try not to break their horizon or tower over hauled-out seals - stay low.
  • Pups are often left alone when the mother is feeding. They are not abandoned and should be left alone and not touched.
  • Keep commentary, conversation and engine noise to a minimum and be aware of your radio volume.
  • If an individual or a herd moves towards the water or there is a hurried entry into the water by many individuals, you should retreat slowly and carefully.
  • Be aware that fur seals and sea lions are highly mobile on land and might charge (and potentially bite) you if approached too closely.
  • Be aware of animals in tussock grass areas. Ideally, staff member should lead, carrying walking stick or equivalent.

Source:  IAATO- Asociación Internacional de operadores de turismo en la Antártida.

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