If you fancy yourself a nature lover, there is a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you won’t want to miss.
See between December and March
During the December to March breeding period, there are docent led nature walks in Año Nuevo State Park where you can learn all about the habits and habitats of one of nature’s most enormous creatures, the elephant seal.
The main attraction would be the fantastic northern elephant seals that could weigh 2 1/2 tons each, but other visible species include sea lions, otters, and harbor seals.
It’s fun to watch the huge bulls fight for dominance on the beach and strut their stuff to attract the bevy of women in-waiting. At the conclusion of the party, many of the females – pregnant in the year before – give birth in the sand. Then it is off to the sea until the next year’s call to revelry.
Protected by the American and Mexican authorities in the early twentieth century, the population has rebounded to some 150,000.
The first elephant seal sightings at Año Nuevo began in the 1950s. The first pups were born on the mainland in the 70s, and by the mid-90s, the amount of local births was in the thousands.
This is effective conservation in action!
In March, and after the primary group has departed for parts unknown, the pups and lots of hundred elephant seals remain to rest and recuperate along the shore and molt – not as lively as mating, but still worth seeing.
Be forewarned, on hot sunny days, there is nothing quite like the aroma of a molting elephant seal.
Just off the mainland sits Año Nuevo Island. The barren and wind-swept island is home to the remains of a 19th century lighthouse. The historical keeper’s house shown above was constructed in 1872, and now provides shelter to an assortment of Cormorants and Sea Lions.
Prepare for a mini-workout
You may walk approximately 3-miles during a tour at Año Nuevo. Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes, because your guided walk will take you over diverse terrain including sand dunes, and you know what it is like to trudge in sand.
Also, wear appropriate headgear because the tours go, rain or shine – and umbrellas are not permitted.
NOTE: There is an accessible boardwalk via van for those needing mobility assistance. Ask for details when buying tickets for the excursion.
To find out more about visiting with the intriguing elephant seals, check out the park’s website.
There is also a worthwhile Marine Education Center located within the park boundaries with interesting animal, plant, and geological exhibits, together with information about the colorful history of the region.
If you go
Año Nuevo State Park is on California Route 1, approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and about 60 miles south of San Francisco.
Treat yourself and your loved ones to a trip with the magnificent elephant seals.