Mar. 12th, 2013

Wildlife Watching: A Northern California Coast Guide To Whales, Seals and Eels

Tail of a Whale, Mendocino Coast
Photo Courtesy of Ron LeValley Photography @ 201
With the Mendocino Coast Whale Festivals kicking off the spring season of whale migration, it’s a good time to remind yourself how truly awesome the wildlife watching opportunities are in Northern California. From boating tours to tide pool exploration, there's no shortage of ways to enjoy the natural beauty of California's northern coast.
 Ole’s Whale Watch Bar
Photo Courtesy of Little River Inn

Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, Little River Inn

Not only can you spot whales from the Mendocino shore during migration season, with luck you can even see them from a cozy seat at Ole’s Whale Watch Bar in the Little River Inn. Not surprisingly, this oceanfront bar and inn gets packed to the rafters during Whale Festival and stays busy throughout spring and summer. While you're there, order a plate of Ole's Swedish hotcakes, a crab pot pie or Olallieberry Cobbler while keeping an eye on the horizon for cresting spouts.
All Aboard Adventures
Photo Courtesy of All Aboard Adventures

Gray Whale Watching with All Aboard Adventures, Mendocino

If you want a closer encounter with a whale, head out to sea with All Aboard Adventures, Anchors Charter or another trusted charter boat operator. Mendocino hotels like Little River Inn partner with boat operators to offer seasonal whale watching packages. Aside from whale watching, charters like All Aboard Adventures offer salmon, rock cod, albacore and crab fishing trips, depending on the season.
 Orcas off the Coast of Mendocino
Photo Courtesy of Mendocino County

Orcas Off The Mendocino Coast

If you’re really lucky you may even spot a pod of orcas, recognizable by their distinctive black and white markings, breaching along the Mendocino coastline. These graceful, powerful animals have been spotted as close as two miles off the shore of Mendocino.
 Pier 39
Photo Courtesy of Pier 39

San Francisco Sea Lions, PIER 39

San Francisco’s famous sea lions congregate at PIER 39 to snooze on each other and bark incessantly, seemingly oblivious to their international reputation and photo appeal. Snap a few photos of a few of the area's most popular residents before browsing the pier's multitude of shops, restaurants and attractions.
 Moray Eels
Photo Courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

Moray Eels, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Moray eels are a no-fail crowd pleaser in any aquarium and this includes Monterey Bay, where the competition numbers in the thousands of eel species. While the Montery Bay Aquarium features many beautiful examples of this variety of eel, California moray eels can be spotted peeping from their rocky hiding spots in habitats close to shore.
 Sea Otters
Photo Courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea Otter, Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay’s adorable mascot is beloved by all — well, make that, all humans. Most people yearn for a sighting of wild otters frolicking off the Monterey coast, but local fish, crustaceans and other small sea life stay well away from this cute but carnivorous critter. The Southern Sea Otter hunts for its prey on the sea bottom, but always returns to the surface to eat its catch, which is often where you'll see them!
 Western Snowy Plover
Photo Courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

Western Snowy Plovers, Monterey Bay

Why are these adorable little birds sporting colorful ankle bands? Since 1993 the Western Snowy Plover has been listed as an endangered species, with only 28 major nesting areas remaining. The Monterey Bay region is a key recovery area for Snowy Plover conservation. Visitors may catch a glimpse of them while walking the beaches or during a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
 Elephant Seal
Photo Courtesy of Friends of the Elephant Seal

Elephant Seal Preserve, San Simeon

The mating season posturing and fighting between adult male elephant seals sets the stage for ideal California wildlife photography. The A?o Nuevo State Park in San Simeon is the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal. The winter months is when visitors can witness the mating and gestation season, which lasts from December through March. After that, park-goers can see weaning pups learning to swim in April and adults returning to molt through August.
Half Moon Bay
Photo Courtesy of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Tide Pools, Half Moon Bay

Tide pooling in Half Moon Bay is one of the region's most popular activities. Easy to access and full of sea life, the pools in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach, might be one of the most visited spots in San Mateo County Park. During low tide the pools offer an outdoor classroom experience, showcasing everything from sea urchins and starfish to the red octopus and various mollusks.
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