Going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is pretty much expected when you visit Monterey, California, but if you really want to see where the wild things are, paddle forth.
Kayaking is one of the best ways to see all the beauty of the Monterey Bay, an opportunity to take it all in from an otter’s eye view.
Gliding quietly through the water, kayakers can come up alongside harbor seals and sea lions; marvel at the steep dives of pelicans as they hunt fish; and see tiny crabs scuttling in the kelp that floats on the bay’s surface. Dolphins and even a whale might put in an appearance as seagulls wheel overhead.
Aside from being able to view marine life in its natural setting, kayaking also offers the chance to see the hidden coves and rocky cliffs along the coast that might be missed by the non-ocean-going tourist, hidden delights that make the experience truly memorable.
The calm waters of Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough, sheltered from the Pacific Ocean, are considered ideal places for newbies to learn to kayak. But that doesn’t mean it’s a boring location for those who already know how.
“It’s a great place to learn, but there are so many things to see, it’s also good for experienced kayakers as well,” said Holokai Brown, program manager for Monterey Bay Kayaks, which offers rentals and tours at its two locations as well as sales of kayaks and other accessories.
If you’re new to kayaking, there are two ways to go. All three of the local businesses that rent kayaks offer guided tours; what’s great about these is that you don’t even have to know how to swim to go on them (although everyone must wear life jackets).
Guides also enhance the learning experience, and will talk about the wildlife that makes this area its home as well as other aspects of the unique Monterey Bay environment.
But there’s also no problem taking out a kayak even if you haven’t done it before. There’s usually a brief orientation to acquaint you with kayaking do’s and don’ts. Brown said the only requirement is that you must know how to swim.
However, kayakers do need to remember a few things – for instance, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are highly recommended, as is quick-drying clothing. Drinking water will prevent dehydration. In addition, kayakers of all skill levels need to be aware of weather conditions and tides so that they’re not caught in a bad situation on the water.
The other thing to be concerned with in this area is keeping a safe distance from wildlife. A 100-foot minimum is recommended, or as Brown puts it, “You don’t want to get so close that you change their behavior.” That’s both for your protection and theirs.
And there’s little chance that kayaking will get dull – in fact, it’s something you can do again and again, and will probably see something different each time.
But for some variety, you might look for outfitters’ special tours. Adventures by the Sea, with several kayak rental locations, offers treks with docents who reveal local natural history. The Kayak Connection in Moss Landing has occasional moonlight and starlit treks, and Monterey Bay Kayaks includes birding and family adventure tours on its schedule.
Monterey Bay Kayaks, www.montereybaykayaks.com or (831) 373-5357; Kayak Connection, www.kayakconnection.com or (831) 724-5692; Adventures by the Sea, adventuresbythesea.com or (831) 372-1807.