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The Lonely Seal and the People of Alonissos

I have been on the small Greek island of Alonissos now for 8 days and enjoyed every minute of it. But the other day something happened to make this visit very special.

I woke up at about 7 as I do every day and went out on our terrace which has a commanding view over the Town of Patitiri and its beautiful harbor. I heard an unusual commotion and looked out almost straight across at the town beach. It was FULL of people just standing and loooking out at the water and making all kinds of noise. What is going on? I saw a small head bobbing in the water and wondered why more people weren’t swimming...no one was in the water. I thought nothing more of this until near dinner time...

We stopped by one of our favorite places on the waterfront to have a cold beer in an iced mug (yes my fellow Americans the Greeks know something about COLD beer) and the waiter asked if we had seen the Seal? It was at this moment on the beach. So we got up to go take a look. Sure enough a group of people were gathered at the shore line and there was this full grown European Monk Seal swimming around and letting people pet it. Now at first I am wary of this behavior and don’t want to contribute to any problems the animal may already have...so we stood back and watched. But my fears soon faded away.

The Seal would lie in the gentle surf and let the waves roll him up to shore where he would poke his head out of the water and look at you with those big wet dark, earnest eyes regarding you with what seemed to be real interest and hope...yes hope. Some sat in the water and petted him and some got waist deep, he seemed to want to swim with people. He would swim around their legs and try to get them to go with him, then swim back and try again. He went up and down the line of admirers getting as much attention as he could and I had to admit he was clearly enjoying this interaction with the humans.

I asked the waiter who was standing there about the Seal and why he came and got this story:

The Seals parents or most likely the Mother was killed when he was just a pup, very very young and the Seal Rescue organization on the Island took him in and raised him. Then when he became old enough they set him free. He lives a regular Seal Life they say and shows up on Skopelos now and then but comes to Alonissos about once a month to visit with the humans.

My guess is he misses his human “parents” and sees us as benevolent beings who will not harm him. He obviously enjoys the human contact and you can see it in those expressive eyes and the playfulness he exhibits in the water. After about another hour he left. He had been here almost all day coming and going to and from the beach or out to the sea to eat and then back again. I suppose the sea and his seal life were calling again and it was time to go...

Posted by
1642 posts

aarthur,

I love seals! Wow, another great experience - first with people and now with an aquatic mammal :)

Yep, their big, soulful eyes get ya. So cute he wanted to play with his human visitors.

What a heart-warming story! This trip has definitely afforded you many, many warm memories. You should think about writing short stories for publication.

Posted by
1952 posts

This is such a lovely story, aarthurperry. I found it touching and I started my day a bit happier after reading it. Thanks you for sharing your warm and delightful experience.

Posted by
2873 posts

aarthurperry, your posting has truly sparked my interest! We have been "following" the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal for years. We used to see them close to shore in Maui. Sightings are very rare now. How fortunate for you and others to see the Mediterranean Monk Seal.

After reading your heartfelt story, I discovered that Alonnisos has a National Marine Park.

See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlonnisosMarinePark and https://www.wwf.gr/en/endangered-species/marine-mammals/seal.

Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to more postings!

Posted by
546 posts

Yes I knew they had a marine sanctuary on Alonissos and covering some of the nearby smaller islands. And in fact I took a great day trip there by boat. I can recommend the trip, Although there is really nothing to see in the park the scenery is very nice and any day on the water is a good one. The boat makes several stops for Snorkeling and visiting a monastery. A very nice lunch is provided including soft drinks and wine. Ours was grilled chicken leg quarters, potatoes, pasta salad with tuna, tomatoes,cheese bread and green beans and more as they say. You board the boat at 10Am and return around 6 PM. 45€ per person.

For anyone that might go I would recommend the largest boat of the three or four that do variations of this trip out of Paititiri. The name of the boat has escaped me but it is unmistakable as it is the largest and a Schooner rigged two masted motor sailer with a blue hull. (Schooner rig can be identified by the aft most mast being taller than the fore mast and with generally two head sails or more) (I will post the name here when I find it) But the trip can be purchased through Alonossis Travel whose office is right on the waterfront.

Some of the smaller boats are very crowded.