What’s The Difference Between A Seal And A Sea Lion?

What’s The Difference Between A Seal And A Sea Lion?

I know I am going to write a lot about animals on this blog, because, in my opinion, they’re awesome, and provide you with some of the most powerful experiences and memories whilst you are travelling.

The aim whilst travelling is to see animals in their natural habitat, undisturbed and free. The conversation about animals in captivity being used for commercial gain would take me completely off topic for quite some time, so for all of our sakes, I am not going to go there.

The only thing I will say to begin with, is that the level of people’s stupidity when faced with a wild animal is very surprising. They forget, as they turn their back to pose for a selfie, that we are on its turf. And it might not be too chuffed with our Instagram addicted compulsion to take its photo.

Road Trip In New Zealand

The Catlin coastline on the South Island of New Zealand is a haven for wildlife. Whales, dolphins, penguins and sea birds of every shape and variety make for an exciting road trip. The Southern Scenic Route originates from Dunedin and passes along the Catlin coastline, Invercargill and all the way round to Te Anau in Fiordland.

It was a cloudy morning in October and my friend and I were several days into a week long road trip along the coast. We were being battered by the winds off the South Pacific Ocean and dodging the showers of rain. All in all, true New Zealand weather. We were having a great time.


A cloudy afternoon at Cannibal Bay

We had read in our guidebook that Cannibal Bay was a prime spot to see sea lions, so we parked the car and took a stroll down on to the sands.

Seal Or a Sea Lion?

As we wandered onto the beach we discussed the differences between seals and sea lions. We didn’t know much. We clutched at straws. Sea lions are bigger? Probably. Seals wriggle on their bellies on land? Yep, could be right.

Ahead of us, much further in the distance, were two separate holidaymaker couples, and what appeared to be a sea lion. He was large, dark and resting high up on the beach where the sand finished and scrubby dunes began.


Cannibal Bay, New Zealand

Does It Really Matter When It’s Heading Straight For You?

The holidaymakers were inching ever closer, snapping away with their cameras. They were in-between the sea lion and the sea. ‘Didn’t the guidebook say for you not to get in between a seal or sea lion and the sea?’ I mused aloud.

‘Yes,’ my friend agreed. ‘You’re blocking off their escape route.’

Almost on cue, the sea lion raised its head testily. The two couples continued to blithely take its photo, crouching down to presumably take a really great shot of its angry face.

‘Oh look at that, definitely a sea lion then’, I observed, as the disgruntled animal reared up on its back flippers and charged at the dim witted people.

In all fairness to their photo albums, the people stood their ground a lot longer that I would have done. They hesitated as the sea lion approached but continued to gawp at him.

Finally, he had had enough.


Racing at them full speed, he began to chase them along the beach towards us. From where I stood, my camera zoomed in to the max, I got a couple of fairly good pictures. It’s time to retreat, I think.

We walked backwards, witnessing the scene in front of us as four humans were chased off a beach by a huge, irate sea lion.


Finally, as the four people came level with us at the entrance to the sand, the sea lion stood still. After a minute or two of quiet satisfaction, the creature propelled itself into the surf and disappeared from view.

The message was quite clear; Cannibal Bay was a beach for the sea lions, and sea lions only.

Have you ever been face-to-face with an animal who really wasn’t overjoyed to see you?




  1. October 15, 2015 / 8:32 PM

    Yap let them be that’s how it is in NZ 😉

    • October 15, 2015 / 8:35 PM

      As it should be! I couldn’t believe people’s disregard!

      • October 15, 2015 / 9:14 PM

        Some people do not think they can be endangered too 🙁

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