Seal Island – A Vital Nature Reserve
Seal Island is located 5.7 kilometers off the shore of False Bay. As a part of the Garden Route, False Bay is frequently visited by travelers. Seal Island, on the other hand can be seen from this Garden Route destination, but is not open to tourist. The huge granite rock that lies in the ocean, has no form of vegetation or beaches, and the only evidence of humans ever reaching the island, is a fallen World War II radio mast, and the remains of huts that were built in the era of guano collecting and sealing.
The Cape Fur Seal population of Seal Island never had the opportunity to gain strength in numbers due to the quota system that was given to sealers. Fortunately, in 1980’s the fur seal product market crashed, bringing to an end the practise of seal harvesting on Seal Island. This has given the population enough time to recover from being hunted by humans, and it is now a strong population of approximately 75 000. Inscriptions in the rocks are the only reminder that sealers were present on the island since the 1930’s. Guano collection also came to an abrupt end in 1949. Due to the increased number in the seal population, the island has become an attraction for Great White Sharks. Although the seal market closed for the humans on land, it opened up for the sharks, and today this has become a popular tourist attraction for visitors wanting to see a Great White Sharks up close.
A small population of African Penguins can also be found on Seal Island. Artificial nests have been placed on the island to encourage breeding success, and it has worked as planned. Even though the seal population has increased, the penguins have remained at a stable 80 breeding pairs since the 1980’s.
Seal Island is a nature reserve and falls under the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board. The island has approximately 24 species of birds, either breeding on the island, or located in the vicinity of the island. It is disappointing to look back and realize that magnificent birds such as Great White Pelicans, Cape Gannets and Kelp Gulls would probably still be breeding on the island today had it not been for the disturbance of sealers and guano scrapers all those years ago. Humans hardly ever realize, until it is too late, what their presence can influence and destroy in their quest for money.