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Hout Bay Harbour is an active fishing harbour and probably the first fisherman here were the late stone age people. Trawlers can be seen off loading tonnes of crayfish as well as snoek, tuna and other deep sea fish. The first known name given to this beautiful bay was Chapmans Chaunce in 1607. It was renamed. by Jan van Riebeeck, the first Dutch settler to T’Houtaaitjen meaning “little wooded bay” hence the present name Hout Bay. The bay is surrounded by Chapmans Peak, a famous scenic drive built on a base of solid granite rock, and the majestic 331m high Sentinel Mountain. A little way up Chapmans Peak you can see a bronze leopard on the rocks. It was given as a gift to the people of Hout Bay in 1963 by local sculptor Ivan Mitford Barbeton in memory of the many leopards which roamed the mountainside. to the right of the leopard lies the remains of a manganese mine jetty.

 

THE CAPE FUR SEAL (ARCTOCEPHALUS PUSILLUS)

 

There are 35 species of seals in the world. Duiker Island is a Cape Fur Seal and bird sanctuary, home to thousands of seals and many birds such as the Cape cormorant, the Bank Cormorants, Black Back Seagulls, Kelp Gulls and Hartlaub Gulls. It is illegal to go onto the island. The majority of the seals on Duiker Island are males waiting out their time until they reach the right breeding age which is between the age of 8 to 12 years depending on their size. Duiker Island is not a breeding colony as the sea can get very rough and the pups get swept off. The island is most densely populated from January through March due to the seals moulting. During this period they do not do off in search of food but rely on fats they have stored in their blubber.

 

Breeding is a continuous cycle and takes place in November/December in breeding colonies around the coastline of South Africa and Namibia. After fertilization there is a dormant period of 4 months and thereafter development continues, making the active gestation period 8 months. The pups are then born in late November early December. A cow usually only has one pup at the time when she reaches the breeding age which is 4-5 years old. She knows her pup by its smell and call and she will only mother her own offspring. Pups are entirely dependent on milk for the first 6 months. They are weaned between 8-10 months old.

 

They grow quickly and start to swim at 6 weeks old. By about 7 months they can spend 2-3 days at sea on their own and can already swim long distances. It has been noted that tagged seals have swum from Cape Town to Cape Cross in Namibia, a distance of 1 600 kms at the age of 8 months.

 

The Cape Fur Seals dives to a depth of 36 m on average but diving abilities varies between species. Their ears and nostrils close tightly when they dive and they cannot breathe underwater. Even while sleeping in the water they have to surface to breathe, every10-15 minutes for young ones and 30 minutes for the adults.

 

  • In general they eat fish, shrimps, shellfish and squid.
  • Seals can hear quite well in the air but their hearing underwater is much better. Their ability to tell what direction a sound is coming from is very good.
  • Their eyes are adapted to see both on land and in the water.
  • They maintain a constant body temperature of 38.5ÂșC.
  • Bulls can weigh up to 350 kgs and cows up to 113 kgs.

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