Update October 2018: You can no longer walk to see the seals as the walkway is closed due to earthquake damage. We drove through the area and saw a tunnel which we were told by a local has been built to give the seal pups access to Ohau Stream from the sea (yay). A large seal viewing area is being built on the sea side of the highway and the highway continues to be repaired following earthquake damage. In places the highway is one way only and there is a lot of road works going on so there is waiting time involved driving through but the work done to get the highway and railway open again is impressive. See New Zealand Transport Agency for updates.
I’ve mentioned the Ohau Stream Walk near Kaikoura before in a South Island Wildlife post, in November this year we were able to do the walk ourselves. As the calendar below illustrates, the best time to see seal pups is April – September.
We were unsure whether we would see any seals at all in late November but we found six pups frolicking in the small pool underneath the Ohau Stream waterfall. Unfortunately our photography skills were no match for energetic seal pups and most of the photos are out of focus, but here’s the best of the bunch ….
It’s a really nice short walk alongside Ohau Stream and through the bush to the pool where the seal pups play. The pool isn’t very big and I can only imagine what a washing machine of seals it would be in the middle of winter when up to 200 pups can be in the area.
The seal pups make their own way up the fresh water stream from the rocky sea shore on either side of the stream mouth. They can stay and play for up to several days while their mothers are out fishing for sea food. They return to their mothers to feed until they’re weaned at about 10 months old. The seals then stay on the coast and use the skills they’ve developed at the stream to hunt for their own food.
The Ohau Stream Walk is 27kms north of Kaikoura, there is car parking and an information board. Thanks to DOC and the Ngati Kuri whanau for allowing visitors on the land to see something as cute as seal pups at play.