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Seal Snarl at Kaikoura, New Zealand

Seeing New Zealand fur seals at Kaikoura, New Zealand

Wild creatures grouping together is really cool. Wild creatures grouping together and not caring that you’re there, and in fact threatening you if you come closer, is super cool.

It really puts things in perspective.

What must it have been like for seal hunters when tens of thousands of seals teemed the shores of New Zealand?

What must it have been like for whale hunters when whales were so plentiful that they were kept awake at night by the sounds of whales calling and playing in the bay at Wellington Harbor?

Surely these people didn’t think they were going to hunt seals or whales into extinction. If they had, surely they would have dealt with these animals differently.

Those were some of the thoughts I had sitting on a rock with a seal 20 feet away on my right starting at me, and another seal sleeping 15 feet away from me on the left.

If you get much closer than that, the seals will show their teeth and let you know that you’ve come close enough.

I know, because I tried.

I was brave enough to get to see the snarl, and the teeth, but not brave enough to see what would happen if I pushed the limit further. And why would I need to?

The seal let me know that I had come close enough, and I thought it was appropriate to respect that boundary.

I would like to tell you that seals are majestic and beautiful creatures, but they’re not.

They smell strongly of an odor I might have once smelled before, in my high school football locker room after the most difficult practice at the end of the season.

To get around, they flop from rock to rock.

They roll around lazily having fun in tide pools.

Watching them playing and vying for territory with one another was incredible.

In the wild in Africa, I’ve seen giraffes, zebras, warthogs, and man-eating brids.

I’ve gotten to work with baby turtles in Costa Rica and swam with a shark in Tahiti.

However, being able to get so close makes this experience with New Zealand fur seals my favorite wild animal experience (so far).

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