Our last landing was in the South Shetland Islands on our way back North, at Walker Bay on Livingston Island. The simple, albeit fairly large, beach didn’t look too exciting from afar as we headed there in our zodiacs one last time. Our voyage was coming to an end and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Part of me never wanted to leave this magical place, part of me was more than ready to be back home. Every wave rolling under the boat made me sway this way and then that way, leaving me emotional and melancholy.
Lost in my thoughts, I suddenly heard folks in the boat getting excited. “Seals! So many seals!” Suddenly we were all looking towards the beach. What nobody knew was that it would be full of elephant seal pups and youngsters. What a wonderful surprise!
Getting out of the zodiacs, we were eagerly greeted by lots of big round eyes and barking-like noises. The “little” pups were one month only but coming in at 100 kg. Seals don’t walk on their flippers like sea lions do, so they move around by wiggling their way forward somehow. They’ll make up for it in the water where they are extremely fast and skillful swimmers and hunters.
The pups must have only very recently been left behind by their mothers who went back to the water feeding themselves once again after staying with their offspring for four weeks. Elephant seal moms will not come back, leaving the pups to learn to swim and feed on their own. Our arrival made the pups extremely curious as they tried to find out whether their moms had suddenly returned.
Several came chasing us which was extremely cute to watch but made it hard for us to stay the minimum 5 meters away. There was constant noise and movement by them and us until maybe half an hour later when they finally recognized that we were not going to bring them any food. Most of them fell back asleep right were they were, spread all across the beach. Interestingly, all of them slept on their backs or sides, occasionally scratching themselves, and making hiccup and burp-like sounds on a regular basis. All this made them look extremely chill and relaxed.
Sleeping seal pups are the best! Lightly snoring with no care in the world, laying in the snow like it’s a cushy cloud that makes for a perfect rest — I could have stared at them forever. Their little faces kept twitching, with one nostril regularly opening and closing for their slow breathing. As a certified breath coach, I was fascinated by how deliberately seal pups breath. That’s something many of should focus on more often, myself included. It surely was one of the most zen moment of my trip.