The Seal and Me

by Nancy Soares on December 5, 2016

by Maya King

Editor’s note: Maya King is the daughter of Tsunami Ranger Steve “El Rey” King. We decided to make her essay our December post because we believe that seeing the world through the eyes of children is a valuable experience. Young minds are less conditioned and in many ways see more clearly than older ones. This particular essay is about the connection between human and marine mammal that can take place under optimal circumstances in the ocean. At a time when Peace on Earth becomes for some of us more than just an abstract concept and we do our best to lessen the division between “us” and “them” in our daily lives, we do well to lend an ear to voices that remind us we are One. Not just you and me, but all of Nature. May all beings be free from suffering.

Maya with the Tsunami Rangers and others at Eric's memorial tribute at Pillar Point in 2012

Maya (in the middle in the blue PFD) with the Tsunami Rangers and others at Eric’s memorial tribute at Pillar Point in 2012

Human beings live in the realm of nature; they are constantly surrounded by it and interact with it. Individual humans experience a moment that can affect them in some way emotionally or physically. Many of these instances which occur are called “phenomena”. In many of my encounters, I have discovered wonders much too precise to explain in words. My most memorable miracle however was being invited to swim and play with a seal. This was the first time I felt myself as a creature, and in a way I knew I was able to connect with the seal on the same level. This memorable phenomenon of mine occurred on a family trip in the Galapagos during the spring of 2015. The connection I had with nature on that trip and during one particular moment expanded my inner childhood laugh in a way that thrilled me.

Maya (on the right) swimming with a naturalist and schools of fish in the Galapagos

Maya (on the right) swimming with a naturalist and schools of fish in the Galapagos

The situation unfolded while I was snorkeling and exploring new and wonderful things. This seal that wanted to play with me was about 4 to 5 years old and loved having fun. Most animals known to man usually show some type of fear or anger when letting humans near them. In my experience, the creatures in the Galapagos are gifted with the intelligence and curiosity that humans who visit are not always harmful. Connecting with the seal gave me a feeling in my stomach as if popcorn were popping. This seal kept swimming around me, bolting in every direction he went. I had noticed him noticing me, and the repeating movements that the seal was doing, that he wanted to play! Amused by his cheerful movements, I slowly joined, giving the message of peaceful interaction. Shortly after I joined him in a game of circle chase. Playing with that seal was almost like playing with a puppy; it had livened me up in a way that is not comparable to anything. At first playing with him, it felt like it was a test of whether or not I would be able to handle being a seal. This made me a little anxious because I didn’t know completely how to address the situation without offending the seal. But after a few minutes my body language got the flow with the seal’s body language and we were performing! I could tell he was relishing the moment but not so much that he let his precautions go.

Playful Galapagos seal

Playful Galapagos seal

As I played with the seal, I watched and saw how much life he possessed. He was a very young and playful seal who enjoyed sharing this moment of chase with me. Even though the chase did not involve a specific moment of discussion between the seal and me, it gave me the intuition that the seal knew I was a friend to him. As he gazed at me with his big black eyes, I knew he saw right into me as a person and a creature. He saw me as a fun, childish, cheerful, and beautiful person, as well as a ferocious, curious, protective creature.



I am very lucky to have experienced this playful moment with a seal. I doubt that I will ever find myself in a moment just like this one again. In this moment, which was so rare, the connection was a spiritual discovery of nature and myself. Participating in a spiritual instance with the seal created emotions that I have never felt before. These emotions are indescribable for many reasons because I know that a moment like that this might only happen once in my life. Experiencing this phenomenon taught me also that every creature out there has an individual spirit that can be shared. We humans can choose to share that spirit with the creatures. We let ourselves be aware of nature and our true connection with it.

Maya and a friend on Surfer's Beach, Half Moon Bay

Maya and a friend on Surfer’s Beach, Half Moon Bay

How have you connected with marine wildlife, or any wildlife, in your life? Tell us your story below!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony M. December 6, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Great account, Maya! To me, playfulness is the overflow of a spirit that feels free. Wild animals, in my experience, cherish their freedom above anything else. This was made clear to me once when after a day at work, I noticed an injured pigeon in the parking lot where my car was. With care, I lined a cardboard box in my car with cloths, and laid the pigeon in there. For a few days, I protected that pigeon, feeding it, keeping it warm and safe. Eventually, its strength grew, and I took the box outside, pigeon therein, and let it go. I’ll never forget the look in that pigeon’s eye, as if it were saying “You mean I can go! Thank you!” …and then it flew off. It impressed me that even a pigeon, a species that closely associates with us humans (and could be almost considered half-tamed) values freedom to such a degree. The animals can teach us humans a valuable lesson in this regard. It is so easy to fall into the rut of being enslaved by many distractions in this world, whereby our freedom, a God-given right, is lessened. Nature, and the creatures of nature, can recalibrate us, IF we just listen. A couple of days ago, I was kayaking to the north of the island where I live. I encountered a seal that I had seen there before, and after greeting my old friend, continued paddling, feeling glad and thankful. Just a simple, brief encounter, but real food for the spirit!


Susan Conrad December 7, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Thanks for sharing this Maya! A seal encounter of another kind, for sure. My most magical encounter with a marine mammal was with a massive humpback whale while sea kayaking off the coast of BC. Unexpectedly, she surfaced so close to me that I SCREAMED bloody loud. I believe she was a bit taken aback by my response, and as if to say “chill lady, I won’t hurt you,” she rolled over on her side, waved her 6′ long pectoral fine for what seemed like an eternity, then dove deep. Before she rolled over I had a brief opportunity to look her right in the eye. Pure MAGIC.


Maya King December 11, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Wow, Susan! That is such an amazing and vividly pictorial experience. I am so jealous and happy for you because, of this experience that you had. It totally shows that you had some type of communcative interaction with this whale. Because whales are also so big and not always found just makes them even MORE special to be seen. I hope I find my experience in nature, that will be just as crazy and breathtaking as having the eye contact of whale. Thank you so much for you response, and I would love to hear more about your exciting experiences threw my email.


Jim December 10, 2016 at 10:19 am

Wonderful story Maya. It is truly a magical moment when we come into contact with a wild marine creature in the sea as anyone who has spent time in the ocean can attest. All of the great sea stories from history are full of encounters with the wild things that the ocean has in its depths, some not as playful as your seal but usually curious and intrigued by us humans.


Nancy Soares December 14, 2016 at 9:10 am

Thanks, Tony, Susan, and Jim for your comments, and a big thank you to Maya for writing our December post! The encounters with wildlife you shared remind me that these experiences are all too rare for many people. These experiences develop a sense of wonder and belonging in us and I believe they help to heal our relationship with ourselves and our universe. I hope the new year brings us all more such delightful moments! Love you guys 🙂


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