Secluded New Zealand Waterfall Doubles as a Playground For Young Seals

The picturesque Ohau Waterfall on New Zealand’s Kaikoura coast is the only waterfall in the world that doubles as a seal creche, a place where the young marine mammals can play and socialize without having to worry about predators.

Ohau is a 15-meter-high horsetail waterfall (the water maintains contact with the bedrock as it falls). It’s not the most eye-catching waterfall in the world, but it has something that no other land waterfall has – adorable seals. For one to three months a year, the shallow pool at the bottom of Ohau waterfall acts as a creche for dozens of New Zealand fur seal pups. By playing and interacting with each other, the young seals learn important behaviors and develop social skills, all while putting on an unforgettable spectacle for human visitors.

Photo: Bernard Spragg/Wikimedia Commons

The Ohau Point Seal Colony on South Island’s Kaikokura coast is home to about 3,000 New Zealand Fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri). Pups are usually born in November, and by April they can be seen swimming up a stream inland. The stream leads to Ohau Waterfall, the pool at the bottom of which acts as a creche for the young seals.


Between the months of June and August, you can see the adorable mammals chasing each other through the pool, playing with sticks, or just chilling on the wet rocks. Every few days, the pups will travel back to the coast to replenish their energy reserves by having some of their mother’s milk, and then they return to the party.


Interestingly, Ohau Waterfall is located on private property, but the owners know just how unique this seal creche is, and they share it with the rest of the world, allowing visitors to stop by and observe the seals.


Unfortunately, this special seal creche is not what it used to be. The 2016 earthquake that rocked New Zealand caused serious damage to the waterfall, and it is no longer considered safe to visit.