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There are many different opportunities to meet the seals on trips guided by naturalists: you can walk, you can kayak, and you can even go by dugout canoe! Whichever season you choose, it’s best to go prepared: wellies or good walking shoes and a hooded jacket. Here, when the wind blows, you really need to hang on tight.
For a naturalist-guided walk, go to the Le Hourdel lighthouse near Cayeux-sur-Mer. That puts you right at the heart of the Baie de Somme, facing its National Nature Reserve. This is the point where the River Somme meets the English Channel. On the other side of the bay is the Parc du Marquenterre, one of the most important ornithological centres in France. But on Le Hourdel beach, the birds are not the stars of the show: it's all about the seals!
The walk begins on the vast beach of Le Hourdel, where your guide will explain the secrets of the many biotopes of the Baie de Somme. To make sure you don’t miss anything in the landscape or its wildlife, it’s best to take a good pair of binoculars with you. Our naturalist guide was carrying a spotting scope, but we were too impatient to wait for our turn to look through it!
Around 300 metres from Le Hourdel beach, we make out some silhouettes on a sandbank: its the seals! Having completely disappeared from the region in the early 20th century, the seals have been back for the last 30 years. There may be as many as 700 here now.
The main species here is the Harbour Seal (or Common Seal), which typically weighs between 100 and 150 kg, although some Grey Seals can grow to 300 kg! The seals live here all year round, but the colony is at its height in summer when the babies are born. A baby seal weighs between 8 and 10 kg. Mothers then feed their pups for 25 days, at the end of which they already weigh around 30 kg!
Fascinating as it is, the walk with the naturalist guide can be a bit long for the smallest in the family, taking 2½ hours to cover just 3 km. But that doesn’t matter, because the vast expanses of Le Hourdel beach have plenty to keep them occupied. Did you know? Razor clams make excellent marker pens for drawing in the sand.
After the hard work, the reward. Everyone in the family will love a plate of moules-frites for lunch. Another suggestion that's sure to please the kids is that the little wooden cabins near the Le Hourdel lighthouse sell soft-serve ice cream, pancakes and waffles!