Everyday, hundreds, if not thousands of people go to visit Sydney Opera House, but most of them, don’t realise that if they took a few steps round the back of the building toward the harbour they’d get to see another fabulous Sydney sight, Benny – The Opera House Seal.
I first encountered Benny in December 2016 while on a run. I saw people standing by the harbour wall taking pictures down into the water – which isnt the normal angle for cameras when you have the Sydney Harbour Bridge directly in front of you and the Opera House behind you so I stopped and looked down myself…and there he was, fat, whiskery, and fast asleep in the sunshine.
Exactly when Benny arrived no-one knows. A seal was first spotted in the same place back in November 2014, but didn’t stick around; a year later a another seal turned up there with a pup. What’s not clear is whether the current Opera House Seal is that first seal realising the error of their ways and returning, whether it’s Seal Two back again or the pup all grown up – or whether word’s out in seal-land that the Opera House steps are the place to hang out if you want to become an instagram superstar in the pinniped world (#bennytheseal), and it’s actually a different seal each time, but he seems to have made the Harbour his home, popping up in front of kayakers, waddling round the steps and mostly, sleeping with one flipper in the air.
Admittedly, it bugged me that I could find so few hard facts about the Opera House Seal. I did try and get more information – I even emailed Sydney Opera House press office a list of questions I hoped they might answer, but they obviously, filed me in the ‘Benny Botherer – possibly slightly dangerous’ file and didn’t reply. All we do know for sure is he/she is a New Zealand Fur Seal (I’m using he because, erm Benny, but it could be a girl!) and that the fact that he doesnt go anywhere means he’s happy, the water’s clean and there’s enough fish around to sustain his, erm, very healthy, layer of fat!
If you’re heading to the Opera House, add visiting The Opera House Seal to the list of things to do. He’s easy to find as he’s now so famous, he’s actually got a Google Map sightseeing star marked Opera House Seal Steps.
I can’t promise he’ll be there. He is wild after all. Nor can you see if he’s there from a distance as he lives about halfway down the steps, but there’s handy ‘Do Not Feed the Seal’ signs so you know you’re in the right place if he isnt present. I’ve seen him regularly when I’ve run past in the morning, and also spotted him at lunchtime.
Oh and cute and cuddly as he might look, seals are bitey so keep your distance!
What else is nearby?
Erm, the big white building to your right is kind of a big deal, as is the big bridge you’ll find to your left, but also nearby are the Royal Botanical Gardens, the ferry terminal building and the seriously fun jetboat rides round Sydney Harbour. Also check out the nearby Opera Bar for a drink with one of the best views in the world. Just watch the seagulls if you order food. They are terrifying!
Where to stay?
Sydney is Destination> Differentville’s home base – but, no, we don’t have a spare room, however, a friend who have come to visit us stayed in the YHA in the Rocks – and it was amazing. Relatively cheap for Sydney, it’s clean, the rooms are large and the view from the roof is awesome.
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