Fancy being a seal rescuer for the day? Seal Rescue Ireland gives you the perfect opportunity.
As we come into staycation season, you might be on the lookout for fun and quirky things to get up to this summer. I recently visited the Seal Rescue Ireland centre in Courtown, Wexford, to spend the day as a seal rescuer, and if you're an animal lover, I highly recommend you look into doing this too.
Why you should go?
If you love animals, this is an activity for you. As someone who desperately wanted to be a vet for years, before realising that my squeamishness would get in the way, I relished the opportunity to do this for a day. Plus, anyone who ever wanted to be a marine biologist in school (you know who you are) maybe try this instead.
Seal Rescue Ireland opened in June 2010, initially down in Dingle, before moving to Wexford in 2014. Their main objective is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release seals back into the wild when they're well enough.
They also promote ocean conservation as well as sustainability, to make the seals' natural home more habitable.
If you find a sick seal, they have a 24/7 hotline you can call to report it. Click through for more information HERE.
What do you get up to?
Your day as a seal rescuer begins with a quick rundown of Seal Rescue Ireland's backstory, as well as the main causes of sick or injured seals. We learnt that nearly every one of these causes is in direct correlation with human behaviour.
After learning about some of the seals in their care, we did a quick loop of the centre to meet them all. They only had seven on this particular day, but the centre has a capacity of 55 seals. After Storm Ophelia, they had over 60 in their care.
Once we'd gotten acquainted, we got into some overalls and wellies, as well as rubber gloves for feeding time. For the sake of the seals I put aside my distaste of holding dead fish and happily threw them for the pups, who gobbled them up without even chewing.
Next we ran Rusty a bath. Rusty is a seal suffering from a skin condition, and so we ran him a bicarbonate of soda bath to soothe the sores (which he seemed to enjoy).
Following Rusty's bath, we got down and dirty in one of the pools, draining it and scrubbing it to keep it as clean as possible, while Aye Aye cheered us on from afar. We also cleaned some of the leaves out of Blue Shark's pool, which she allowed after sniffing the net a few times.
After this we got out of our overalls and wellies and had one more viewing of the seals before heading to the gift shop. Here I purchased a key ring, a magnet, oh, and I adopted a seal. Obviously. I didn't even have to be asked by the end of the experience.
Of course the highlight of my trip has to be my new adopted daughter. This is Chough, a female grey seal pup who the SRI rescued at the end of April. Upon arrival she was underweight, injured, and dehydrated, with some wounds around her mouth and flippers. They couldn't tell exactly how old she was, but she was estimated to be between 4-6 months upon rescue.
When she weighs enough and her wounds are healed, she'll be released back into the wild. As her adoptive mother, I receive updates on how she's doing (which I can barely read without tearing up because c'mon, look at that face). It's possible as her parent that I'm biased, but she's certainly the cutest seal I've ever seen.
How to keep up with them
Seal Rescue Ireland has an adorable Instagram account that you need to be following if you love animals. They also have a TikTok account which you can find HERE and is where I first heard about them.
Where is it again?
Seal Rescue Ireland is based in Wexford, by Courtown Harbour, tucked in by the Active Tribe and Leisure Centre.
The full rescuer experience, which is what I did, costs €70pp and takes three hours in total. If this is too pricey for you, they also have a one hour experience that costs €20pp, where you get a tour of the centre and get to feed the seals, or you can do a guided tour for 30 minutes for €10. You can check out all the options HERE.
While the seal rescuer experience won't be for everyone (if you're easily squeamish, or aren't willing to get a bit dirty, I'd avoid) I adored it. Never have I been happier to handle dead fish or scrub a pool down than in the name of seal pups (in particular Chough). If I could run a bicarbonate of soda bath for Rusty every day, and watch him roll around in it, I surely would. If you're planning on a Wexford staycation, or willing to do a day trip, I highly recommend visiting the SRI.