In 1486, the Portuguese captain and explorer, Diego Câo, erected a padrâo (a stone pillar topped by a cross), some 60 kilometres north of the modern day Atlantic coastal fishing town of Henties Bay in Namibia. A replica cross stands in its place today.
The original cross became an important navigational landmark known as ‘The Cabo de Padrâo’ and eventually Cape Cross in English. Cape Cross is today the breeding place of over 200,000 Cape Fur Seals, a subspecies of the Afro-Australian Fur Seal Arctocephalus pusillus. It is a protected area owned by the government of Namibia with the official title of Cape Cross Seal Reserve, and is also a National Heritage Site.
These seals are so-named for their thick soft pelt, which is protected by a layer of longer, harder hair. Seal pups have unfortunately been hunted for their jet black pelts and for the beautiful olive-grey coat which they acquire after moulting, for centuries.
The male seals can weigh up to 350kg (770 lbs) and are very territorial whilst looking after their harem of 5 to 25 females. Cow seals are a lot smaller than bulls, they only weigh up to 80kg (176lbs). Most youngsters are born in November / December and they weigh about 4.5 to 7kg (10 to 15 lbs). Their fur is pitch black and they start sucking on their mother immediately. Youngsters start feeding on fish when they are about 4 to 5 months old. The seals are traditionally most fond of pilchards and anchovies, but since the numbers of these fish have been dwindling, mostly due to overfishing, seals have had to look for alternative sources of food. Fortunately, they are rather opportunistic and highly adaptable, happily snacking on anything from crayfish and shrimps to seagulls and even penguins.
Visitors can view the seals from a 200m long walkway, constructed of recycled plastic suitable for wheelchairs. Other facilities include information points, toilets, campsites and a picnic spot. Cape Cross has both historic and biological significance and is a popular tourist attraction. Apart from the seals, there are also other fauna to be seen here, including Brown Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Grey Phalarope, Damara Tern, Cape Teal, Black-necked Grebe and African Black Oystercatcher.
Cape Cross is also a gateway to the Messum Crater and the Brandberg Mountain to the east and Skeleton Coast Park to the north. For a chance to visit this reserve and its seals, join us on our popular small group, expert guided Best of Namibia safari. This itinerary has been perfected over the years and also includes Erindi Private Game Reserve, several cultural activities, fantastic Etosha National Park, Swakopmund and iconic Sossusvlei.
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