Ocean Wildlife Adventures in Southern California

07.14.11


Sea Up Close

Behemoth beauties, blubbery sunbathers, and small wonders are all cast in this trio of ocean adventures. This summer, get up close and personal with some celebrities of the sea.


Blue Whale watch Ocean Institute

Big Blue

Right now, the waters near Dana Point offer one of the best chances for spotting the season’s biggest—and endangered—star. No, it’s not Optimus Prime. It’s the 100-foot-long blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. For a rare opportunity to view this elusive giant of the seas, catch a ride aboard the Ocean Institute’s Blue Whale Safari; the 5-hour excursion departs from Dana Cove. Blue whales currently travel daily through the Dana Point Marina Life Refuge, relishing the nutrient-rich cold waters that have made Southern California a popular new feeding ground in recent years. Your experienced captain will explain the mysterious nature of the blue whale (very little is known about them, including their breeding behavior), adding to the thrill of seeing one. Timing is everything because blue whales can hold their breath for up to 10 minutes. Patience and a keen eye for spotting blowholes are helpful. While waiting, you’re likely to see pods of bottlenose dolphins catching a wave alongside the boat and possibly the deep-diving Risso’s dolphin, identified by white scars from a lifetime of undersea battles. Keep the camera handy to catch the blue whale breech. Wait, is that a blowhole? Fluke at two o'clock!

Blue Whale Safari trips are available July–September. Reservations are $57.50 each and include a continental breakfast. Parking is free.

Kayak Marina Del Rey Harbor

Summer School

Looking for any excuse to go back to college? Take a refresher course that has you hitting the water, not the books. UCLA Marina Aquatic Center rents sit-on-top kayaks by the hour, no experience necessary. (Note: for sit-in kayaks, you’ll have to take an actual class or prove prior certification.) Get a short briefing before pushing off to circle the cushy waters of the Marina Del Rey harbor. With Mount Baldy as an eastern backdrop on clear days, glide by lazy sea lions lounging on the docks. Spy brown pelicans swooping to steal fishermen’s catch of the day, and surf scooters diving for fish among fancy yachts. If you're lucky, a pod of dolphins may swim by. Slight currents push against you on the return trip, but an automatic right of way keeps you VIP cruising all the way back to land. "A" for effort.

BONUS: After paddling up an appetite, head to The Warehouse Restaurant where the outdoor patio feels like a private island. Kick back and watch boats pass by while sipping their signature Mai Tai.

UCLA MAC (310-823-0048) is located off CA-1/Lincoln Blvd. on Fiji Way. Follow Fiji Way until the road ends in a cul-de-sac. There is a small sign for the MAC center at the entrance, which is located at the end of a private drive. Limited parking is available at the building and additional parking is available at Lot 52 located on Fiji Way (a 10- to 15-minute walk to the center). Hourly rentals for the sit-on-top kayaks are $25 for a single and $30 for a double. Each additional hour is $15/$20. Currenlty enrolled UCLA students get two hours free and there are discounts for other college students/alumni. Rentals are first-come, first-served. 

Tidepools at White Point State Park

Pool Party

Here’s a tip for feasting your eyes on the colorful sea creatures at San Pedro’s White Point State Park: follow your nose. The vast tidepools here—once home to a natural hot springs resort—still emanate a faint scent of sulfur, and teem with animated critters that thrive in the environment. Stretching from the dramatic hills of White Point to the jutting lighthouse at Point Fermin Park, the best alcoves are found by veering left of the lifeguard stand at White Point Beach. With easy access from the sand, rock-hop onto large boulders and peek into the pools: red fiddler crabs, green anemones, and bat sea stars mingle as troves of California mussels cling to rocks. To distance yourself from crowds, keep heading southeast along the sand by the bluffs before boulder-hopping to the pools (exploring gets a bit trickier here). Catalina Island sits pretty in the distance while blue-banded goby fish race past your feet. Slates of rock surrounding the pools make for easier navigation and viewing, so enjoy the scenery; just pay attention to where you’re stepping—party crashers aren’t welcome here.

TIP: The manicured hillside next to the parking lot is a perfect perch for a picnic, with tables and a public grill.

Take I-101 S toward San Pedro until it ends at N Gaffey St. Turn left onto Gaffey and take the third right onto W 1st St. (toward the harbor and Cabrillo Aquarium). After 1 mile, turn left on Western Ave. until it forks in the road at W. Paseo Del Mar. Turn left and stop at the White Point State Park parking lot (look for the sign). Parking down by the water is $10 or park near the baseball field on the street and walk down the hill. Check tide tables and plan to go at low tide to get the best views. No dogs.

Get Your Zion

Ready to check an iconic hiking destination off your bucket list? Lace up your boots, get outdoors, and hike with friends among one of America’s most beautiful national parks—all for a good cause. Team In Training (TNT)—the world’s largest sports charity organization—has your ticket to a hiking adventure in Zion National Park. Choose from easy walks along Zion’s Virgin River or more challenging treks to the famous Angels Landing. Explore amazing rock formations, hanging plateaus, hidden gorges, waterfalls, and slot canyons along less-traveled trails with expert guides who are well versed in the trails and scenic wonders of Zion National Park. Get warmed up with local training hikes around Los Angeles where you’ll also meet other participants. Explore a different local trail every Saturday and experience hidden treasures right in your own backyard! Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned hiker, TNT has professional, certified coaches and personalized programs to meet your fitness and nutrition goals. And the added bonus: by being a part of the Team, you’ll help raise funds and awareness for the fight against blood cancers. That’s taking steps in the right direction! 

TIP: Grab your friends and get to a Team In Training (TNT) introductory hike to learn more about their hike adventures. The next one is July 23 at Hahamongna Park. RSVP with rachel.hershberg@lls.org.  

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