In the search of seals
We are trying to spend more time not only visiting towns and parks but also looking for wildlife. In the past couple years we have been visiting the Donna Nook Seal Colony in Lincolnshire to see newly born grey seal pups.
There are nine major grey seal colonies in the UK. The Donna Nook Seal colony is one of the largest breeding colony. We have seen seals in Blakeney (Norfolk) but numbers in Donna Nook are just so much larger. It is an amazing wildlife spectacle that will interest both adults and children.
Some of the seals and their pups can be very close to the fence of the viewing area, which is incredible. Nowhere else you can see wild grey seals and their pups from so close. But remember no touching! The share number of grey seals and closeness to the viewing area makes the Donna Nook Seal Colony an unique and truly amazing experience of wildlife. It is a great day trip which will cost you nothing as the entrance is free.
Will I see seals and their pups?
Yes! Donna Nook is one of the biggest grey seal colonies in the UK. Almost half of the world population of grey seals (40%) is in Britain! So, if you want to see grey seals in their natural habitat, visit to the Donna Nook Seal Colony is the answer. If you go during the winter months, you will surely see grey seals and their pups. Every year around 2,000 seal pups are born at the Donna Nook Seal Colony.
The seals are visible from the viewing area, which is at the foot of the sand dunes. It can take about an hour to walk from one to the other end of the viewing area whilst stopping to admire the seals and listen to their bizarre noises. As the birthing take place here, you will also see feeding of pups, lots of placenta, fights between bulls or cows, or be lucky and witness a seal giving birth to its pup.
We timed our visits with peak times of birthing (see Best time to visit below), which was the end of November. There was 100% guarantee that we will see many seals and most importantly their pups. The age of pups we saw ranged from couple of days to weeks. You can tell this by their size and coat colour. Pups are born with white coat, which stays for 2 to 3 weeks before it sheds. Once pups are weaned, the females become available for mating giving rise to much competition among the bulls. You may see some fights between bulls and they can be vicious and bloody.There can also be some fights between females as they are very protective of their pups. As the breeding season comes to an end in January, the seals leave the Donna Nook and are back out at sea.
Best time to visit Donna Nook
Grey seals come to the Donna Nook coastline every November and December to give birth to their pups. The viewing area is open from late October to December but the exact opening dates depend of the seal numbers.
The peak of the birthing is towards the end of November and the beginning of December. This the best time to visit. At the peak time there can be over 2,000 pups, nearly 1,000 cows (female seal) and around 500 bulls (male seal). You can keep an eye on regular weekly counts of pups on the Donna Nook website or their Facebook page to decide when it is the best time to go. My tip is to follow their Facebook page as it will act as a reminder when the seal breeding season starts.
If possible, avoid weekends as this wildlife spectacle attracts tourists from across the UK and can get very crowded. One year we visited on Saturday as it was madness with getting the car parked...This year we went on a weekday and it was much better with parking. So, weekdays and mornings are usually much better and less crowded.
Getting there & parking
The Donna Nook seal colony is about 10 miles from Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire on the east coast of the UK.
Address is: Donna Nook National Nature Reserve, Marsh Lane, Donna Nook, Louth, LN11 7PD*. The postcode is for the nearest registered address and not the exact postcode for the Donna Nook. You will see signs to get to the parking area.
There are a dedicated parking lot next to the coastline of Donna Nook. The parking lot is relatively big and we had no problem in parking on a weekday during a peak time. The parking costs £4 per car on weekdays and £5 on weekends. From the parking lot it is only couple minutes walk to the viewing area. This car park has no disabled access but has toilets (portaloos).
There is also a smaller car park (Stonebridge car park) maintained by the Environment Agency from which there is an easy access to the viewing area (via ramp). Use this parking if you need a disabled access. It is free but limited spaces are available.
The viewing area is a long stretch alongside the coastline of Donna Nook and is a natural pavement. It is a wheelchair friendly but you need to park at the Stonebridge car park to access the viewing area (see Getting there & parking above).
Coming with a baby? Our last visit was with our little baby boy. We opted for a baby carrier rather than a pram. It was much easier to walk around but you would be able to push a pram too. Although it will not be very easy, especially during the peak times and weekends.
Note that dogs are not allowed. Seals can carry infectious diseases like Leptospirosis and Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) which are harmful to dogs.
It is a great day out to see wildlife but it can get very windy there. The sea breeze can be very cold so make sure you are dressed for the weather. Think layers! Hats and gloves were a must for us to enjoy the walk.
Have you visited the Donna Nook or any other seal colonies in the UK? I would love to hear. Please comment below.