The appeal of diving for many is the rare opportunity it offers us to be at one with nature. There is a whole world under the water which we spend most of our days oblivious to, and catching just a glimpse of this life can leave you breathless.

But one diver caught way more than a glimpse while diving off the coast of the Farne Islands, Northumberland, last month.

Ben Burville, who is a GP by trade, has been diving for more than 32 years, but during that period he has had few experiences quite so magical as that which he shared with a wild grey seal.

The 49-year-old was exploring the depths when the curious seal approached him, before clinging on to his arm and nuzzling him. The affectionate flippered friend then gave the doc a full-on cuddle, with the pair embracing like old pals.

Credit: Caters
Credit: Caters

Dr Armitage, who practices in the nearby coastal town of Amble and is a visiting researcher at Newcastle University’s marine biology department, said it was ‘hard to describe the feeling’.

He said: “I realise that I am incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and insight into their world that this facilitates.

“Having dived and observed grey seals for over 18 years, they have shown me how to dive with them in a way that they feel at ease.

“When they hug you or hold your hand it is hard to describe the feeling – time stops.

“You are 100 percent aware of being in that very moment, peaceful, calm, and I suppose the term is mindful.’

“There is something about being with nature that is magical.”

According to National Geographic, seals are highly intelligent creatures and they are known to investigate rather than flee when they come across things which are unfamiliar. This is partly due to the fact they are exceptional swimmers and can subsequently back themselves to get out of dangerous situations.

Later in the video, the seal can be seen mimicking Dr Armitage, as the pair scratch each other and float along cheerfully in each other’s company.

That said, it is generally not advisable to touch a wild seal as they have long claws and potentially harmful bacteria in their mouths – in fact, it’s prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to approach seals in the United States.

According to the Wildlife Trust, the British Isles’ grey seal population accounts for around 40 percent of the world’s population. The trust claims the population in the area has grown by 140 percent since the early 20th century, when there were around 500.

Featured Image Credit: Caters


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