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Located just off the coast of Hout Bay in Cape Town, in a treacherous section of coastline, is a small rocky island that juts out above the water and is the home of a large colony of Cape fur seals. This island is called Duiker Island and the origins of the name are unknown, however the word duiker is a Dutch word for diver.
Less than 0.5ha in size, Duiker Island is a refuge for Cape fur seals as the island is surrounded by thick underwater kelp forests where sharks rarely venture. The seal is able to safely breed on the island while sharks patrol the kelp forest edges. It is when the seal travels out into open water to feed that they are likely to encounter their chief predator and must then use their agility and wiles to avoid certain death. Seals are able to dive to depths of 200m and their diet consists mostly of small fish, crabs and octopus who reside in amongst the kelp beds around the island.
Cape fur seals are engaging animals, their large eyes, tiny ears and groomed fur appeal to the crowds who enjoy watching their nimble swimming and underwater antics around the island. Several charter companies offer boat trips to Duiker Island from Hout Bay harbour, some with glass bottoms to watch the seals swimming below the boat. Look out for sharks in the open water and cormorants, darters and seagulls who share the island with the seals. Charters generally include a visit to the Bos 400, a giant barge that ran aground here in 1994. Note that trips to Duiker Island are weather dependant, check the weather and tides before arranging a visit.
The area around Duiker Island is spectacularly scenic, the Sentinel Mountain overlooks the island while across the bay, one can see the incredible engineering work undertaken to cut a road along the edges of Chapman’s Peak.