Cape Town Seals, South Africa, 2012

Fur seals playing in the powerful swells off the rugged coast near Cape Town South Africa, within Table Mountain National Park.

“For many years I watched these Cape fur seals surf the massive southern ocean swells that collide with Cape Town’s shores. Early on, I had visions of creating photographs that would show them surfing from the underwater perspective. However it took years to figure out how make this image safely and for the right conditions to materialize. When the waves were really big and the seals were surfing almost constantly, it was too dangerous to get into the water. Then when it was safe, the seals weren’t surfing or the water was too murky. Then came the perfect day. There was no wind, the ocean was glassy smooth and perfectly sized sets of large waves rolled in and most importantly the seals were surfing en masse.”

Table Mountain National Park is located on Cape Peninsula at the southwestern tip of Africa. An area of exceptional marine and coastal biodiversity, its rocky shoreline is home to 43 percent of the country’s marine species. Nearly 1000 km2 of the sea and coastline surrounding Cape Peninsula is designated as a marine protected area (MPA). Marine breeding and nursery areas are heavily protected by restricted and “no take” zones that ban fishing or extractive activities. Through leaving these undisturbed, there will ultimately be an increase in marine stock and threatened species are given a chance to regenerate.

Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Photograph Date: 2012
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200

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About the Photographer

Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak is an assignment photographer for National Geographic Magazine. He is a Founding/Associate Director of the Manta Trust, and a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He has been named as one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world.

Originally trained as a marine biologist specializing in human–wildlife conflict, he retired from science fieldwork in 2004. He became an wildlife photojournalist after realizing that he could have a greater conservation impact through photographs than statistics. His work focuses on some of the most critical marine conservation issues of our time.

Thomas has written and photographed five books: Currents of Contrast, Great White Shark, Wild Seas Secret Shores and Lost World. His latest book Sharks and People was released in 2013 and chronicles the relationship between people and sharks around the world.

He is a multiple winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards and received World Press Photo Awards for his work in2011 and 2013. In 2015, he gave a TED talk, Dive into an ocean photographer’s world, aboard Mission Blue II, hosted by TED Prize winner Sylvia Earle.

Thomas is a speaker for the National Geographic Live! Series and presented his talk, Wild Seas, Secret Shores in Australia and Singapore.

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