Update: Although Chatham Water Tours no longer offers Cape Cod Seal Tours, several other Cape Cod tour companies do.
Did you know that seals don't say, "Arf!"?
After practicing "arf arfs" with my toddler all morning in preparation for the adventure of her young life, a boat ride out to see seals off the coast of Cape Cod in June of 2004, I felt a bit sheepish when Captain David Murdoch explained that it is actually sea lions that "arf." Seals, he told us, emit more of a howling sound.
Murdoch owns Chatham Water Tours, one of several Cape Cod tour companies that offers guided excursions to see the seals that live in the area around Monomoy Island. We're not talking about just a few seals. The colony of gray seals off the coast of Cape Cod is estimated to number about 1,200.
What does it sound like when hundreds of seals howl in unison? We were about to find out. Within 20 minutes, we would literally be in the midst of hundreds of seals, listening to their enchanting seal symphony.
While I can't share with you the sound of the seals, I can give you a glimpse of these fun-to-watch creatures at play off the coast of the Cape. Join me on a virtual photo tour, and you'll see just how densely a sandbar can pile up with seals, learn a bit about the Cape Cod gray seal colony, and find out why this is such a fun outing for children and Cape Cod visitors of all ages.
I needn't have worried that my toddler would embarrass me by shouting, "arf!" Instead, she said, "Hi, guys!" over and over as she was continually delighted and surprised by the antics of these sea mammals. They swam and dove and popped up, waving their flippers as if to return her greeting. In fact, the seals seemed as interested in us as we were in them, and their smug grins convinced me that they must be thinking: "You all paid to come and stare at us, but we get to gawk at you for free!"
What You Need to Know About
Cape Cod Seal Tours
2007 Update: Chatham Water Tours will not be offering regularly scheduled seal tours in 2007; they are booking custom tours only. There are, however, several other seal tour operators on Cape Cod. Be sure to ask about seal watching conditions when you call to schedule your trip, as changes to the coastal landscape that occurred last fall have altered the seals' habitat.
What to Bring: A jacket, a camera, binoculars and snacks.
Reservations: For custom tour reservations, call Chatham Water Tours at 508-432-5895.