Nation diary: Snoozing seals and shut encounters | Amy-Jane Beer

A 10-minute rib experience over waves gleaming like crumpled tinfoil has introduced us to the lee of a small inexperienced island, the place sea individuals are ready. Fifteen bob in open water, a dozen extra float head up in a patch of kelp. “That lot are sleeping,” says our skipper and information, Lewis Johnson. “Depart them be – they received’t be aggressive however there’s no must startle them. You’ll see others snoozing on the underside.”

We equipment up, drop over the aspect and swim by a noodle-soup of seaweeds: mustard-coloured strands of thongweed stroke my cheeks and chin, the one pores and skin uncovered to the chilly Atlantic. Weeds of different colors – crimson, bronze, gold and brilliant inexperienced – shelter fleets of tiny fish, bigger yellow wrasses and compass jellyfish, innocent sufficient and enigmatically stunning.

Rising into open water, we see conspicuous darkish tubers with pointed ends resting on pale sand under us – snoozing seals. Others glide previous so swiftly and easily that they appear to materialise from nowhere. Among the many weedy rocks extra sleepers are camouflaged completely till they transfer, and I discover one simply six toes under me when the crescent-moon whites of its eyes roll in unison to comply with me.

‘A small, pale particular person … rises behind me and investigates my left fin.’ {Photograph}: Amy-Jane Beer

I’m floating with Lochy, my son, when a small, pale particular person swoops under, rolling on to its again to observe us, then rises behind me and investigates my left fin, first with whiskers, then muzzle, and at last rubs its entire cheek arduous on the trailing edge, squinting blissfully.

Gray seals off the coast of south-west Britain use locations like this as service stations. They aren’t usually resident, so their reactions aren’t born of familiarity. They’re merely curious, particularly the kids, although they range in confidence, as we do. Lochy, at 12, is the youngest of our human group, and it appears the juvenile seals are significantly keen on him. Maybe it’s his measurement; maybe they intuit youthful playfulness, however he’s additionally sporting a full-face snorkel masks as an alternative of a masks and mouth-snorkel combo. His face is absolutely seen and he can converse underwater. Maybe that’s what they like. In any case, these are clever, sociable animals. If not precisely a gathering of minds, every interplay appears like an encounter of mutual alternative.

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