There are two main species of seals which make the Suffolk Coast their home: common seals and grey seals.
Common seals, also known as harbour seals, have grey or brown fur that is patterned with fine spots and their noses are distinctly V shaped. Their heads are rounded – a good way to tell them apart from grey seals, which have a flat head. Grey seals tend to be quite large and the males have darker fur, while the females are silver grey to brown.
Seals are at the top of their food chain in the waters of the Suffolk Coast, unless a shark or pod of orcas were to appear. Fish, particularly herring, make up the seals’ diet and they also eat crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, as well as shrimps, mollusks and squid. Grey seals have also been known to eat the odd octopus should the opportunity present itself.
The best place to see seals is from the water. Orford River Trips are a fun and educational way to get out on the water and see a variety of aquatic life, including seals. The more curious seal might swim close to the boat, or else you will see heads appearing from the waves. Another good spot for seals is Boyton Marshes, not far down the coast from Orford. An RSPB reserve, you can either drive to Boyton Marshes or walk along the river from Orford Quay. Seals have been spotted chilling out on the riverbanks at low tide so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Pop further up the coast to Southwold and climb aboard the Southwold Coastal Voyager. With a range of different trips to choose from, you will have to make several return journeys to try them all out. Their Seal and Wind Farm Trip take you over to Scroby Sands where both grey and common seals live. You can watch them relaxing on the beach – see if you can spot them banana-ing – or some of the more inquisitive seals might swim closer to you for a better look.
Seals have also been known to favour the beaches at Kessingland and Pakefield – so these beaches are also well worth a visit in the hopes of spotting a seal or two. Look out for heads bobbing in the waves, or maybe the seals will be lazing on the beach.
If you’re really keen to see the seals, Norfolk is an excellent trip. Make a day trip to Hopton on Sea or Great Yarmouth where you can also visit Scroby Sands to see seals, or head right to the top of the county to visit the seal colonies at Blakeney Point.
Did you know?
- Common seals have their young between June and August, whilst grey seals have their pups between November and January
- Baby seals can swim from the moment they are born, but take 4 weeks to mature before they can leave their mother
- Young seals can travel distances of several hundred miles, while adult seals favour particular areas depending on the season
- Seals can live for up to 30 years, with females typically outliving males
- The latin name for the grey seal is halichoerus grypus which means hooked-nosed sea pig, and the latin name for the common seal is phoca vitulina which means “calf-like seal”
The occasional seal has been seen in the River Deben or off the coast at Aldeburgh – with one quite recently having a little doze on a jetty at Aldeburgh Yacht Club!
If you’re on the lookout for seals, or if you happen to stumble across one by chance, please remember to keep dogs under control and to keep your distance from them. Seals may look friendly and cute, but they – like most beach goers – do not wish to be disturbed, especially if they have pups.
Stay in Suffolk with Suffolk Cottage Holidays! Bridge Cottage, 55 Pump Street (sleeps 6), Woodridge at Butley Mill, (sleeps 2), and Wing Cottage, Orford (sleeps 4) are all coastal properties – ideal for if you’re keen to be spotting seals.