Snorkeling with Seals in Cape Town: Best Tour + Top Tips!

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Are you looking to go snorkeling with seals in Cape Town on your trip? This guide covers how to book a Cape Town seal snorkeling tour, what to expect on the excursion, and a few things to bring with you for the journey.

Are you planning your trip to Cape Town at the last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Cape Town last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, and more!

🇿🇦 Top tours and activities in Cape Town:

  1. Snorkeling with seals (tour reviewed below; recommended!)
  2. Wine tour from Cape Town (top-rated day trip option)
  3. Cape of Good Hope + penguins tour (I also loved this)

🛌  Top hotels and places to stay:

  1. Central Beach Villas (where I stayed in Camps Bay; sea views)
  2. Urban Oasis Aparthotel (in CBD)
  3. Casa del Sonder (De Waterkant, great location)

🚗 Visiting Cape Town independently? Be sure to book your South Africa rental car ahead of time to ensure availability!

Is there anything more you’d like to know before going on a seal snorkeling tour in Cape Town?

Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

🦭 NOTE FROM MEGAN: This guide was written by my partner, Ed, after our recent trip to Cape Town. I am claustrophobic and struggle snorkeling as a result! Enjoy!

Why I Booked a Seal Snorkeling Tour in Cape Town

I love animals and I love seals. Unfortunately, I tend to have terrible luck when it comes to seeing them.

While searching for unique tours to do while staying in Cape Town, I found a seal snorkeling experience, and I knew I had to do it! It combined two of my favorite vacation activities: snorkeling and wildlife spotting!

How to go snorkeling with seals in Cape Town
How to go snorkeling with seals in Cape Town

The snorkeling takes place off of Dukier Island, near Hout Bay. The island is a protected marine reserve and home to over 5,000 seals.

The waters around the island are filled with kelp forests that keep the seals protected from predators. 

How I Booked this Cape Town Seal Snorkeling Tour

I booked my swimming with seals experience through GetYourGuide, one of my preferred booking platforms. They have multiple seal tours in Hout Bay available, and I opted for the one that I felt offered the most complete experience! 

Booking through GetYourGuide couldn’t be easier. Simply select the tour you wish to do, the date, the number of people, and the time slot. If the tour is available, you will be able to add it to your basket!

On my Cape Town seal snorkeling tour
On my Cape Town seal snorkeling tour

Once the tour is in your basket, you can opt to add additional tours or simply go to checkout. On the checkout screen, you will need to enter your information and any additional details required by the tour operator. 

In the payment section, you will be able to pay with any major credit or debit card and some online payment services like PayPal. Once you have paid, you will be sent a confirmation email, and you will be good to go! 

Snorkeling with Seals in Cape Town (My Review!)

⏰ Duration: 2.5 hours
📍 Meeting point: 8 Albert Rd., Hout Bay, Cape Town
🌎 Language: English, Afrikaans

In this part of the guide, I will detail my experience on the seal snorkeling tour so that you will have a rough idea of what to expect. If I don’t cover something, leave a comment, and I will reply to it.

Where to Meet for Your Snorkeling Tour in Hout Bay

The tour doesn’t offer pick-up, so you will need to make your way to Hout Bay and meet directly at the tour provider’s office: 8 Albert Rd., Hout Bay, Cape Town, 7806.

Hout Bay is a short drive away from Cape Town and has plenty to offer, so I recommend planning to spend time in the town around your seal snorkeling experience.

Before my tour, I went to the South Yeaster Bakery for breakfast and a drink. After that, I stopped off at Sentinel Coffee to get a takeaway drink to walk along the beach with. Megan hung out around town while I was on the tour, and she will be writing a guide to Hout Bay sometime soon.

Hout Bay (near Cape Town)
Hout Bay (near Cape Town)

You should arrive at the offices just before your tour starts. If the big brown gate is shut, you will need to wait until someone opens it; otherwise, walk directly in to check in for your tour in the office.

When you check in you will need to sign a waiver form releasing the company of any liability as you will be swimming with wild animals!

Beginning of the Tour

At the start of your tour (after you have checked in), you will need to provide your shoe size, and they will estimate what size wetsuit you will need.

You will then be asked to step outside, where you will find your name written on a chalkboard with your gear. The wetsuit should fit very tightly to keep you as insulated as possible; however, I found my first one far too tight and needed to size up, which they happily did.

Behind the benches will be white boxes where you can store your bags, towels, and anything you don’t want to get wet! The building is secure, and people are always on-site, so your belongings will be secure while you are gone. 

Finding the seal snorkeling tour meeting point
Finding the seal snorkeling tour meeting point

Once you have your wetsuit on, you will be given a safety briefing and learn a little about Dukier Island. I recommend only putting on half the wetsuit, as it is very warm!

Once the safety briefing is complete and everyone has their vest, wetsuit, and shoes on, you will be taken down to the harbor in several cars. Once at the harbor, I would put the rest of your wetsuit on. 

Boat Trip to Seal Island

You will head out to the island on a RIB boat, with everyone sitting on the sides of the boat. As you leave the harbor, you will be greeted with your first seal sightings, with some seals taking up residence along the docks.

These seals, while still cape fur seals, are pretty lazy and just beg for fish from the fishing boats rather than head out to sea and hunt. 

Our RIB boat for the tour
Our RIB boat for the tour

As we entered the bay, we were greeted by common dolphins. Our guides slowed the boat, and we spent some time looking at the dolphins as they darted around our boat.

Dolphins hanging around
Dolphins hanging around

Dolphins are fairly common in the bay and can often be seen playing around. We then proceeded to the seals. The journey is very short, and you will notice that as you get closer, you will start to smell the stench of seal poop, which largely smells like digested shrimp.

On the RIB boat
On the RIB boat

Once at the island, you will need to put your flippers on and you will be provided with a mask, snorkel, and gloves.

💥 PRO TIP: If you have facial hair, bring Vaseline to create a seal between your face and the mask to stop water from flooding into your mask.

Swimming with the Seals

Once you are fully dressed and ready to go, you will be invited to jump into the water. The first part is a little challenging, as you will need to swim or crawl over kelp to reach the water where the seals are playing.

Seals in the water around Hout Bay
Seals in the water around Hout Bay

Once in the water, you will need to keep 2 meters (6.5 feet) away from seals and stay within 5 meters (16 feet) of a guide. While you need to keep two meters from a seal, they can choose to come closer to you, and they will! 

Swimming with the seals was incredible! They will dart around you, leaping in and out of the water. At times, it is hard to know where to look!

Snorkeling with seals tour in Cape Town
Snorkeling with seals tour in Cape Town

You will spend around 50 minutes in the water, which is plenty of time to see more seals than you can count! The one challenge of the water is that it is quite murky, and you will quickly realize it is the remnants of seal poop with shrimp shells floating around the surface. 

Before long, your guides will call you back onto the boat. There is no ladder to get on to the boat but they will help pull you back in. You can also opt to go back into the boat early if you start to feel cold or have had enough of the seals! 

Wrapping Up the Tour

Once back on the boat, they will offer to pour warm water into your wetsuit. I highly recommend taking them up on this, as it will quickly warm you up.

Before leaving the island, the guides will provide hot chocolate, water, and biscuits. Once everyone is ready, they will then take you back to shore, where you will get back into the cars and drive back to the starting point.

Here, you will need to return your wet suits and fins. There are small outdoor showers where you can wash the salt off before changing back into your regular clothes.

I recommend showering after the tour
I recommend showering after the tour

I would make sure you wash off and have other shorts or clothes to change into, as your swimming clothes may smell of seal afterward!

After you have collected all your belongings, you are free to leave! They run these tours in quick succession, so you may find that you are changing back into your clothes as another tour is getting into their wet suits! 

Cape Town Seal Snorkeling FAQ

What should I wear when snorkeling with seals?

You will just need to have your normal swimwear with you.

The give you some of the gear
They will give you some of the gear

You will be provided with a wetsuit, snorkeling gear, shoes, fins, and gloves. I would also have a change of clothes with you for after the tour. 

What should I bring with me on the tour?

The tour is short, and nearly everything is provided for you. The boat is also fairly small, so they request that you only bring the essentials with you.

I took the following with me:

➡️ GoPro Hero 11 with an underwater dome: GoPros are great for video underwater, and the dome lets me practice with over-under shots.

➡️ Olympus Tough TG-6: my new underwater camera, this was my first time using it, and to be honest, probably the worst place to learn to use it!

The seals move fast, and the water is less than clear, so getting a sharp image is nearly impossible. It’s probably better to make a video and take the stills from that!

Photo with my GoPro
Photo with my GoPro – bit blurry though!

➡️ Vaseline: I have a beard and know that I need it to create a seal around my mask. Unfortunately, my seal was not great, and water flooded into my mask. I’ve done the Vaseline trick on other tours before, and it has always worked!

➡️ A dry bag: I took my own dry bag to keep a few things in while on the boat, but you can also give your phones, hats, and glasses to the guides, and they will store them in a communal dry bag at the front!

➡️ Towel: once you get back to the starting point, you can have a short shower to wash the salt water and whatever unthinkable things were in the water off! Afterward, you will need a towel to dry off!

There are a limited number of towels available at the office, most of which have a hood where you can look like a seal!

Can I rent a camera?

Yes! They have two types of cameras that are available to rent: a MiVision camera and a GoPro Hero 11. There is also a small TV above the cameras that shows you the difference in video quality.

The MiVision camera costs 350 ZAR ($18) to rent, and within that price, you get a 32GB SD card, which you can keep. The video quality and stabilization on this camera are not great.

Cape Town seal snorkeling tour
Cape Town seal snorkeling tour

Alternatively, the GoPro Hero 11 is 700 ZAR ($36) to rent and comes with a 64GB microSD card, which you can keep afterward. Everyone on my tour who needed to rent a camera opted for the GoPro.

There are discounts available if you have your own SD cards. However, GoPros requires a very fast microSD card, and I would recommend just purchasing one with your rental. 

Do I need to be able to swim?

Yes, you need to know how to swim to take part in this tour. You will be swimming in the ocean, and the waves that roll through can be quite big and push you around.

However, if you are not a confident swimmer, you can speak to the guides and hold on to a buoy they have with them throughout the tour. I spent a lot of time simply floating, but occasionally I would need to move myself a little bit as I got pushed towards the island. 

For those who can’t swim, there are other ways to visit the island without getting into the water! 

Is swimming with seals safe?

Seals are wild animals, so your safety can never be guaranteed. They have been known to bite, and if this happens, your guide may end the tour early.

Additionally, during the mating season (between November and December), the males can be more aggressive as they assert dominance over their territory. Your guides will know the signs to look out for and will move you away from these seals. 

In the water with the seals
In the water with the seals

Recently, due to the effects of climate change, the chemistry of the water has been changing, and there is a certain acidic toxin that is impacting the seals’ behavior.

This is causing the seals to become more aggressive and unpredictable. If the guides spot this behavior, the tour will end!

At all times, the guides are out there to keep you safe, and they will stop the tour and bring you out of the water if they ever feel it is unsafe. 

Is swimming with seals ethical?

I believe it is. I did a lot of research before booking the tour and came to the conclusion that, provided it is done responsibly, it is safe.

The guides make sure you keep your distance from the seals. The encounters you experience will be at the behest of the seals, and if they decide to come closer to you (or not). Standing on the actual island is not allowed. 

The Island with the seals!
The Island with the seals!

Are there sharks?

Apparently not! At least not dangerous ones. The area where you swim with the seals is surrounded by a kelp forest that larger ocean predators can’t enter, so you will be alone with the seals.

I didn’t see anything other than seals and the remains of their dinner in the water.

Should I tip?

Tipping in South Africa is common, with most people tipping between 10 and 20%. However, it is down to the level of service you think you have received! I recommend getting some cash out for tipping.

Should you book a Cape Town seal snorkeling tour?

Absolutely! The tour was incredible, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! There was even a person on my tour who was doing it for the second time.

It is one of the most unique tours I have found in Cape Town, and it was a truly enjoyable experience.

If you have any questions about snorkeling with seals in Cape Town, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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Are you looking to go snorkeling with seals in Cape Town? This guide details the best Cape Town seal snorkeling tour in Hout Bay (+ what to know before!). | Cape Harbor Seals | Things to do in Cape Town | What to do in Cape Town | Cape Town tours | Hout Bay tour


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