4 miles up the coast from a man-made wonder called Hearst Castle, an amazing
natural phenomenon has grown along the central California shore since 1990.
to extinction for their blubber in the last century, elephant
seals began arriving two decades ago along a sandy beach abutting
the Pacific Coast Highway.
by naturalists and organizations such as Friends
of the Elephant Seal, the rookery at Piedras Blancas Beach
has became a welcome home to one of California's largest elephant
seal populations. These oceanic nomads make California their home on route from their migration from Alaska twice a year - once to give birth and mate, and then return at various other times to molt, or shed their outer skin and fur.
into the thousands, elephant seals have become a spectacular open air tourist
attraction and must-see stop for visitors making their way down
in the ocean, or basking in the California sun, these wild denizens
of land and sea are often blissfully unaware of hundreds of human
onlookers who come to see them. But be warned: these are wild animals. Approaching them on their own turf is NOT recommended!
Go: The elephant seals can be visited from 8 am to sunset
year round. Our visit occurred in October, when a population of
young elephant seals was at its peak.
is prime viewing time to see larger males who come to mate, or
engage in sometimes loud and fierce territorial battles.
months are also when females give birth. Special arrangements
may be made by tour bus companies and school groups to have guides
on hand to assist them or answer questions.
for more information.
for guides in blue jackets who can expertly answer any questions.
read the colorfully illustrated markers along the path that explain
elephant seal social life, feeding and mating habits. Here's more:
On land, elephant seals spend their time either snoozing or
relaxing to preserve energy.
of the warnings posted. While it may be tempting to engage elephant
seals, they can be quite aggressive & territorial, so keep
on the designated path to avoid injury.
the weather is generally sunny along the coast, bring at least
a light jacket and be aware of the day's forecast for possible
coastal wind or rain.
and be prepared to spend more time than you had planned for
the day to be completely mesmerized by these fascinating creatures.