From this magnificent headland, the views stretch forever.
This area offers spectacular coastal viewing from the boardwalks and lookout points set amongst natural sea bird gardens.
One and a half kilometres offshore from The Nobbies are Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest Australian Fur Seal colony.
Things to do:
Stroll along The Nobbies boardwalk and enjoy spectacular views along Phillip Island’s rugged south coast.
See the awesome blowhole, a spectacular sea cave that thunders during big southern swells.
Enjoy the sea bird gardens offering spectacular flowering displays in the spring.
Take a moment to learn about the local area from the educational signage.
Silver Gulls nest here and chicks can be seen during spring and early summer.
Little Penguins are often seen here resting between seasonal and daily duties.
Australia’s Larges Fur Seal Colony at Seal Rocks on Phillip Island
As you look out over Bass Strait from The Nobbies, you see the rocky outcrop known as Seal Rocks. It is a special place where Australia’s largest colony of fur seals frolic, live and breed.
Seals belong to a group of animals called Pinnipeds. They are mammals which means they have hair and feed their young on milk – just like humans. Fur seals have tiny ears and use both pairs of flippers when ‘walking’ on land – unlike true seals who have no ears and can’t use their rear flippers for ‘walking’.
In late October, males return and begin the ruthless fight for territory. Unsuccessful males who survive the violent clashes group together, making frequent attempts to challenge established males. Seals reach puberty between four and five years, but males cannot breed until they claim a territory (about 11 years). Most males only breed for an average of two seasons before being defeated. Females give birth between late October and late December. Five to six days after the birth she succumbs to the loud calls of a male and mates with him. Each territorial male mates with about 10 females. She then goes to sea to feed for several days and returns to suckle her pup – a pattern that is repeated for the next six to eight months. After that, the pup will go to sea with its mother to learn how to feed. A pup is weaned at about 10-11 months. The colony quietens down when the males leave in late December to early January. Seal Rocks remains home to mothers, pups and young seals for the rest of the year.
Seals spend their days swimming, rolling and diving for squid, cuttlefish and small fish – they do not eat Little Penguins. They have excellent underwater vision and can dive to 100m. It is thought they are able to detect vibrations from prey with their sensitive whiskers. Many seal pups die of starvation, injury or infection. Once at sea, weaker pups can drown during storms or fall prey to sharks.
Some young seals do not cope with leaving their mothers and starve to death. White pointer sharks take seals of all ages. It is not known how long seals live on average but the oldest recorded male was 18 and female 21.
In the early 1800s, the seals at Seal Rocks were hunted for their skin and oil. Sealers set up semi-permanent camps and bartered the skins with passing ships for products such as flour. Many ‘stole’ Aboriginal women and made them perform the hard task of sealing for them. Sealing was intensive and uncontrolled.
Seal Rocks provides an important breeding area and nursery for between 10-12,000 Australian Fur Seals. The area became a sanctuary in 1928 and was declared a State Fauna Reserve in 1966.
Between 1966 and 1977, a small research team visited Seal Rocks to study the seal’s reproductive behaviour and diet. Many seals were tagged for identification. The population was drastically reduced by sealing but annual counts during breeding seasons from 1965-1991 show the colony has slightly increased, though not back to pre-sealing numbers.
If you find a dead seal with tags on its flippers, please report it to the Phillip Island Nature Park. A seal’s life is filled with many natural hazards, but unfortunately humans have created more. Many seals become entangled in fishing line, nets and other plastic rubbish whilst swimming – this leads to injury and death. Seals can also mistake rubbish such as plastic bags for food. There have been several studies in response to claims that seals interfere with fishing. It was found that seals do not cause a significant impact on local fisheries. You can view the seals from the Nobbies (binoculars essential).