Among all of the wild animals you expect to see in Ostend, chances are seals were not on your list! In 2020 just under 2000 seals were spotted along Belgian coastlines and these days, seeing a wild seal in the sea at Ostend is no longer a rare event. Seals are becoming more common, and visitors love to see them swimming and playing in the water along Ostend coastline. The increased presence of seals is good for two reasons, firstly there was a ban on the trade and import of skins and other seal-related products in the EU since 2009 meaning they are much safer now. Secondly, it means our water quality and the environment of the water are gradually improving.
Seals are a beautiful and important part of marine wildlife in Belgium. Animals such as these come ashore to breed give birth and nurse their young. Some species are at sea for several months at a time while others return to the shore every day. They survive equally as well in water as on land as long as there is a source of food nearby. They don’t need to be constantly wet, unlike other marine life. A seal’s body stores enough fat in the blubber layer to allow the animal to go for extended periods of time without eating, something they never do on land. In winter, it’s usually pups spotted on the shores remaining on dry land until they shed their fur and have enough fat reserves to face the dangers of the ocean. Adult harbour seals will usually retreat to the water when approached, but juveniles will often remain on the beach.
Seals in Ostend
One of the best things about Ostend Beach is the presence of these majestic animals. You’ll see signs alerting you that there are seals present and that you should not disturb them because they can be dangerous. Keep your eye out, looking over the water to see their tiny heads pop up, alone or in groups. They’re fun-loving animals, often called the dogs of the sea as they are common and very cute. The Klein Strand on the Strekdam is a popular resting place for marine animals. And they often lay on the breakwaters in the quieter part of Ostend Beach. Zeebrugge, a few kilometres along the coast, is also a busy spot for seals and a great place to visit them from afar. Bring binoculars for a closer look.
Care of Wild Seals
A seal in Ostend quickly gathers a group of spectators. While they are beautiful to look at and admire, it’s important to keep your distance. Seals on the beach or breakwater should be left alone. They are on land to rest, not because they are in trouble. People and dogs pose a huge threat to seals and a recommended distance of 20 metres is recommended at all times. This is not only for the seal’s wellbeing but yours too. Seals can be aggressive when threatened and have a very strong bite which is sure to break the skin and cause serious damage.
Dogs are a particular threat to seals. Seals give off a specific scent to which dogs can react badly. For this reason, dogs must be leashed on Klein Strand. Usually seals quickly flee into the water when approached but some larger specimens also dare to defend themselves and bite back. It’s not worth the risk to your four-legged friend.
Swimming with Seals
Swimming with seals is not a tourist activity in Ostend and you should not go looking for seals in the water, but it’s often when you’re swimming in the sea that you might come across a pup. It usually happens to solitary swimmers in a calm sea. The seal might be curious about you but could also be defending what it sees as its territory. If the seal is intimidating, slowly but assertively move away. Pushing, nudging and vocalisations are signs that the seal would prefer to be left alone. Don’t touch the seal if you can help it as similar to much marine life, bacteria that is harmful to humans grows on seals.
Book a stay in Leopold Hotel Ostend and visit the beautiful wild seals for yourself. Our best available rates are exclusively available when you book directly on our website or with one of our team.