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Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium Offers Seal-Spotting, Birding Cruises

A large male gray seal (with dark head) rests among harbor seals on a rock in Long Island Sound.
A large male gray seal (with dark head) rests among harbor seals on a rock in Long Island Sound. Photo Credit: Dick Ramsey/Dolphin Marine Photography

NORWALK, Conn. – Cruise out for the chance to see some of the seals and waterfowl that spend their winters in Long Island Sound during the Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises offered Saturday and Sunday by The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. 

These 2½-hour outings will depart at 11 a.m. both days aboard the aquarium’s unique new research vessel, R/V Spirit of the Sound, the country’s only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion. The cruises seek out the harbor seals and gray seals that migrate to the Sound from northern waters, which serve as their summer breeding and pupping areas. 

Seals often can be seen near the Norwalk islands when they “haul out” to rest on rocks exposed at low tide. Aquarium educators will point out these federally protected marine mammals and talk about their natural histories. They’ll also discuss what happens to the Sound’s marine population during the winter.

“As exciting as it is to see the seals that are exhibited inside The Maritime Aquarium, it’s truly a memorable experience to see them out in Long Island Sound,” said Tom Naiman, the aquarium’s director of education. “Those encounters also remind us how important the Sound is as a habitat for our marine mammal friends and all the other creatures that call it home.” 

These cruises also give birders unique on-the-water access to see and photograph visiting winter waterfowl, such as buffleheads, mergansers, Brant geese and long-tailed ducks. Plus, cruise participants can help aquarium educators with plankton samplings. 

Binoculars will be provided. All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.

While the R/V Spirit of the Sound has a climate-controlled cabin, participants still should bring plenty of warm clothes because the best viewing is outside on the deck. 

Tickets are $24.95, or $19.95 for aquarium members. Capacity is limited, so advance reservations are recommended. Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting. Reserve your spot by calling 203-852-0700, ext. 2206, or online.

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