14 Holidaymakers needn’t worry, however: gray seals are quite friendly around humans. Small injuries, such as scratches, occasionally happen when swimmers meet curious seals, but they tend to be harmless. Germany’s seal population has been on the rise since the nineties. The island of Heligoland even saw a record this winter, with more baby seals being born than in any year since records began in the winter of 1996/97. This is great news and shows that Germany is up there with the best when it comes to wildlife. So, if you are looking for an outdoor adventure with real predators, there’s no need to travel far. Just bear in mind: keep a distance of at least 30 meters. Unless the seals approach you of their own accord. GERMANY IS UPTHERE WITHTHE BEST WHEN IT COMESTO WILDLIFE PROCEED WITH CAUTION: A DOE-EYED PREDATOR “I’m hiding in the long kelp, inching ever closer – it’s already taken me an hour and a half! My body lies flat on the ground, submerged in water; only my head is just about poking out. With slow kicks of the fin, I approach the female gray seal snoozing on a rock. The 50°F water chills me to the bones. I can barely feel my hands gripping the camera. Finally, the perfect moment has arrived: the sun is setting behind the horizon, the seal lifts her fin – click. Done. My best picture ever! It was one of the most emotional moments in my wildlife photography career. Only through many years of experience with these animals and my intimate familiarity with their habitat was I able to capture this scene for eternity. My ultimate goal is to document natural behaviors and show the world the unembellished truth. Besides equipment and patience, animal photographers need one thing: an intuitive understanding of what’s in front of their camera. It’s extremely important to assess the situation correctly. What is the animal doing? Am I disturbing its natural behavior? No matter what wild animals you are watching, it is crucial to keep a distance, not to underestimate the animals and to show them the respect they deserve. Not just with tigers in India but also with gray seals in Heligoland. While these playful, doe-eyed animals may look like pets, they must be treated with extreme caution. The gray seal is Germany’s largest, heaviest predator. A bull can weigh up to 300 kilograms and measure up to three meters. With sharp claws and jaws like a bear’s, these agile animals even hunt harbor seals and porpoises. In 2014, I became the first person ever to film a grown gray-seal bull devour a harbor seal under water – something that had never been documented before. For a long time, the seals were widely believed to be pure piscivores.