The Seal Banks of Cuxhaven - The Way as a Goal

If you set off for Heligoland, you can expect a breathtaking world of flora and fauna. Even if its manageable area hardly gives you an idea, the island and its waters offer a home to a wealth of species. And word has spread about this diversity, because more and more guests are visiting Helgoland for precisely this reason. This applies not only to birdwatchers but also to those who have always wanted to admire seals in the wild. And now the best news: there is already something to see in this respect on the trip.

The seals of the North Sea - from the mouth of the Elbe to Heligoland

Already in the mouth of the Elbe, nature lovers get their money's worth, because this is where the seal banks of Cuxhaven are located. Like the grey seals, their famous relatives found on Heligoland or on the dune, the seals of the North Sea belong to the large family of seals.

Of a total of 33 seal species worldwide, only two, the grey seals and the harbour seals, live in German waters. Centuries of hunting and the consequences of environmental pollution have taken their toll on the populations, pushing the animals to the brink of extinction in many areas. The good news is that targeted protection measures, hunting bans and retreats are gradually having an effect, so that in many places populations have been increasing again in recent years.

For the seals of the German North Sea, this means that the number of animals has almost doubled to 28,500 in the last twenty years. In 1991, at a time when there were only about 15,000 seals left in the Wadden Sea and on Heligoland, far-reaching conservation concepts were developed that are now bearing fruit. Nevertheless, environmental toxins remain a risk factor for the sensitive immune system of the sensitive animals.

The differences between seals and grey seals

Telling the two seal species apart at first glance can take some practice - especially from a ship.

Even when fully grown, seals are somewhat smaller than their relatives, the grey seals. Nevertheless, male seals grow up to 1.80 m long and weigh 100 kg, while female seals are about 1.50 m long and weigh 80 kg. By comparison, adult grey seal bulls can even grow up to 2.50 m long.

The head shape of the animals also offers the possibility of differentiation. The head of harbour seals tends to be rounded and compact, while grey seals tend to have an elongated, pointed skull shape.

Both female seals and their males have greyish-silvery fur with dark patches. Grey seals are characterised by either light grey fur with dark spots (females) or dark fur with light grey spots (males). No wonder, then, that confusion can occur.

Grey seals have their pups in the Wadden Sea in early summer. Female grey seals give birth in the winter months from November to January - certainly also on the coast of Heligoland.

Probably the biggest difference, however, is the occurrence, because the chance of encountering a seal is significantly lower. After all, there are about six times more grey seals than harbour seals on the German coasts. So it's good to know exactly where to look.

The seal banks on the way to Heligoland

Which brings us to the keyword. What could be better for animal lovers than a trip to the seal banks off Cuxhaven? Quite simple: to experience the seal banks almost as they pass by - on the crossing to the high sea island, where much more awaits.

Exactly, you can have both. Our comfortable catamaran passes the seal banks in the Elbe estuary on the crossing from Hamburg to Heligoland, giving our guests the unique opportunity to experience the seals of the North Sea in the wild at low tide. Of course, with enough distance so that the animals don't get scared - and close enough for incomparable impressions and an unforgettable souvenir photo. Low tide is a decisive factor. For only when the sea retreats does it free up the necessary space for the seals.

Instead of turning back towards the mainland afterwards, the ferry now takes us directly on to the North Sea island of Heligoland with all its spectacular flora and fauna. In addition to the famous guillemots, the gannets and the many different species of seagulls, the relatives of the seals also cavort here. While birdwatchers flock towards Lummenfelsen and Lange Anna, the seals are best admired at Helgoland Dune.

Incidentally, keeping seals and grey seals apart is sure to become child's play at some point.

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