Skip to content
Home » Blogs » How to swim with seals safely

How to swim with seals safely

How to swim with seals safely

Many open-water swimmers enjoy experiencing sea life in their natural environment; animals such as dolphins, whales, and seals are common in British waters. However, you need to consider how to swim with seals safely.

Cold water swimmers should be aware of swimming with seals UK, as there may be a chance of an encounter if you choose to dip in popular seal sighting spots, such as around the coastline.

While the animals in the sea may look cute, you need to consider the nature of the interaction, as, like any wild animal, they may not always welcome a stranger in their waters.

Whether swimming with a basking shark in the ocean or a sea lion in a lagoon, you must always respect marine life, and this article will teach you how!

Tips for safely swimming with seals

A sea lion or seal spotting in the United Kingdom isn’t a rare sight; many adventure seekers enjoy swimming alongside wild species, but there are some hazards to consider.

Keep reading to find our tips on how to swim with seals safely!

Tips for safely swimming with seals
Seal peeking out of ocean

1. Keep noise to a minimum

Despite any large resident seal colony making lots of noise, any unfamiliar sound can startle seals and cause them to flee or attack.

Noises such as slapping from front flippers or whirring from a boat engine can upset the seals, so you need to keep movement and noise to a minimum.

You can still have an unforgettable experience swimming with seals without getting up close and personal with the animals; watching quietly will allow you to observe the seals in their natural habitat without disruption.

2. Keep your distance

You should never approach or touch a wild seal, always keep a few metres distance and try to remain at a shallow depth when seals are near to ensure you can exit the water quickly if you need to.

If a seal swims up to you, try to create some space slowly, but always stay calm and avoid touching their body, face, or whiskers.

Seals are inquisitive animals; they may approach you. Always allow the seals to control any interaction in the water and be wary of any changes in behaviour, such as snapping, circling, or pulling. If you feel unsafe in any way while swimming with seals UK, slowly get to the shore.

Any disruption could cause seals in main groups to stampede, which can be fatal for the humans in the water and the seals.

3. Avoid seals with pups

Seals tend to have their pups around Autumn, so cold water swimmers must be extra careful, as seals are extremely protective of their offspring.

Many wild water athletes continue their sports in the Autumn months, like September. Swimmers may stumble across a seal and its baby.

Baby seals are curious creatures and learn via play; if they see a human for the first time, they may want to interact, but we advise avoiding pups where possible.

Interacting will young seals can disrupt their fishing, feeding, and resting. You must leave the pups to enjoy themselves in their beautiful environment and observe the abundant marine life from afar.

Avoid seals with pups
Seal pup on the beach

4. Recognise signs of danger

Certain situations may make a seal attack more common, such as if they are with their babies, they are feeding, you block their escape, or two males are trying to attract the same female.

It would be best to make yourself aware of these dangers before swimming, kayaking or snorkelling with the animals. No matter where you swim, it is important not to disturb the marine environment or feeding cycles.

If fur seals cannot score enough fish in a day, they may produce weak offspring and even die; if you see a seal diving for food, give it some distance and avoid scaring the prey.

Never swim at night in areas where seals are common, and if you are a weak swimmer, you may want to use a tow float for extra support in the daytime.

5. Remain calm

Always remain calm while swimming with seals, even if the seal appears in a playful mood. Don’t splash around, make loud noises, or touch the seal. Large commotions could be seen as threatening and may cause the seal’s behaviour to change.

Beginners to open water swimming should stay close to the shore, in an area where they can stand up. Should you start to panic while swimming with seals, slowly backwards stroke away until you can exit the water.

Alternatively, you can take a boat trip or kayak to see seals in their marine paradise without getting too close.

Many areas in the UK offer day trips to popular spots; some offer wetsuit hire and allow you to swim with the help of professionals.

6. Seek medical attention

On the rare chance you get bitten by a seal, seek medical attention as soon as possible, as seals may carry some disease.

Most seal breeds in the United Kingdom are fairly tame, and seal attacks are uncommon yet not unheard of.

If you are choosing to swim abroad in an area known for seal encounters, learn more about the nature of the local animals.

For example, leopard seals are not found in England but are one of the more vicious breeds, so you always learn about your location to avoid any danger of attacks, especially if leopard seals are popular!

7. Clean up!

This article has tips on swimming with seals safely, but keeping the seals and their environment safe is also important.

From the unpolluted Atlantic Ocean to a secluded lagoon, the sea is the habitat of many majestic animals, such as eared seals, and we must preserve their home.

Make sure you clean up any rubbish you bring to the beach or lagoon, including cans, plastic, straws, etc. If these products end up in the ocean, they can cause problems for animals, even death.

Clean up!
Big seal under the sea


Are you allowed to swim with wild seals in the UK?

Swimming with seals is legal in the United Kingdom, and co-existing with sealife can be a magical experience for any wild water enthusiast.

However, you need to take care and respect the wild animal, as they may get protective and aggressive if they sense you are a threat.

Where can I swim with seals in the United Kingdom?

Grey and common seals can be spotted across the United Kingdom’s coastline, including in:

  • Abersoch, Pwllheli, Wales
  • Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales
  • Blakeney Point, Norfolk, England
  • Lundy Island, North Devon, England
  • Farne Islands, Northumberland, England
  • Ilfracombe, North Devon, England
  • Falmouth, Cornwall, England
  • Skerries, County Dublin, Ireland
  • Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland
  • Oban, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
  • Monach Isles, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Find the best places to swim in the United Kingdom!

Can you go swimming with seals via boat?

Many areas of the United Kingdom offer seal outings, where expert divers accompany you to the sunniest places that seals may frequent. It is a great way to go swimming with seals safely.

For example, Padstow sealife safaris are based in Cornwall and offer quality seal trips, and Ilfracombe sea safari covers the North Devon area! So, grab your snorkel and your fin and start booking your trip.

How to swim with seals safely
Group of seals on a beach

Do seals in the United Kingdom bite?

Seals in the United Kingdom will bite if they perceive you to be a threat or if they have young pups to protect. They may even bite in a seemingly unprovoking situation, but this is rare if you keep your distance.

Wearing a wetsuit as you swim with seals can help protect you if you experience an aggressive seal encounter, as the thick neoprene material may prevent any punctures.

What wild animals might I encounter in British waters?

You may come to face to face with the following sea life in the United Kingdom:

  • A basking shark
  • Dolphins
  • A sea lion
  • A grey seal
  • Harbour seals 
  • Eared seals
harbour seal
Harbour seal


Swimming with seals can be exciting and thrilling, but as with any cold water swimming, you must do so with care. Using the tips our article has offered, you will be prepared if you ever stumble upon a seal in the waters.

Whether in a lagoon or the open sea, you need to be respectful of any animals in the area. Any loud noises or significant interaction may scare off prey or frighten the wildlife, so remain calm and quiet and keep your distance.