On a chilly morning in September myself and fifteen other freedivers boarded the boat St Cuthbert’s III at Seahouses harbour. We were bound for the Farne Islands for a days diving with the resident Grey Seals.
Once on board the boat we settled in for what was to be quite a rough sail across to the islands, our destination was on the northern side just offshore of the island called Harcars. On the final approach to our diving spot we were greeted by the sight of around twenty seals basking on the rocks and as we glanced around we would see little heads peeping curiously at us from out of the water.
We donned the rest of our diving gear, attaching extra weights to our weight belts and made to enter the water from the side of the boat. The boat had dropped us about 25 meters from the shore so once we found our diving buddies we headed further in shore for what was to be a wonderful dive experience and my own first club trip.
As we swam towards the shore we could see the wonderful kelp forests below our fins and we couldn’t resist diving down and having a look beneath them into a completely different world from the one we know. Within minutes of being in the water we started to see seal shaped shadows pass by us underwater. They were just as curious about us as we were about them and far more agile in the water.
At first there was only a handful of seals around us, we would have our head down looking underneath or diving down looking for them only for us to return to the surface to find two heads watching us. Or we would swim along and find that there is a seal right on our fins curiously having a nibble to see what they were.
They often swam at about a meter away from just tantalisingly close to a full on interaction with them, before scooting off to a safer distance. The luckier ones out of our group would get close up encounters of the seals having a very curious nibble of our fins.
We stayed in that one spot on the islands for around two hours before returning to the boat slightly chilled to warm up on hot drinks, snacks and extra layers.
The second part of our day was on the north side of the Brownsman Island with a different group of seals. The part of the island we were on was a lot more open to the sea so it felt colder and it was slighter rougher water to be in. We entered the water again for what was to be another exciting experience with the seals, there wasn’t as many in this area as the first so there wasn’t as many interactions.
We soon felt the chill in the afternoon so our time in the water was shorter than the first session. We boarded the boat for an even rougher journey back to the harbour, we all looking forward to warming up and for many of us a trip to the pub to fill up on a well deserved meal and some beer!
On arrival at the car park in preparation for the second day in the sea, we could see the fares were surrounded by a slight haze but the sea didn’t look as rough yesterday so we hoped to be able to dive on a different side of the island where there are usually more seals. Unfortunately it was not to be and we ended up on the north side of the islands again this time in a slightly different spot for our first dive of the day. This first diving spot was just off the Wamses island.
On entering the water on the second day myself and my diving buddy Kate found this wonderful slightly secluded inlet where the seals were around us all the time. We had many interactions with them and unlike the seals from the previous day we were able to dive down and get some interactions. Kate notably had one having a nibble on her fins for quite a while which was wonderful to observe.
After several hours in the water and many interactions we all started to head back to the boat, where lemon cake was cut up using a fin due to the lack of knives onboard. Hot drinks and extra layers were a welcome relief to the chills of the morning.
The second dive of our day was with back on the Harcars Island with the same seals as the previous day. This time we not only had many wonderful encounters with the seals we also had the chance to explore the underwater kelp forest a bit more. Finding lobsters, crabs, jellyfish and many sea urchins.
We returned to the boat after about an hour and a half feeling exhilarated, cold and ready for home for what had been a wonderful weekend in the North Sea with the seals.