Northern Elephant Seal, Bird, Beach

If you fancy yourself a nature lover, there is a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you will not want to miss.

See between December and March

During the December to March breeding period, you will find 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 observable species include sea lions, otters, and harbor seals.

It’s fun to see the huge bulls struggle for dominance on the shore and strut their stuff to entice the bevy of women in-waiting. At the conclusion of the party, lots 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.

Interesting history

Protected by the Mexican and American authorities in the early twentieth century, the population has rebounded to some 150,000.

The first elephant seal sightings in Año Nuevo started in the 1950s. The first pups were born on the mainland in the 70s, and from the mid-90s, the amount of local births was in the thousands.

This is effective conservation in action!

Other seasons

In March, and after the primary group has departed for parts unknown, the pups and lots of hundred elephant seals continue to rest and recover along the shore and molt – less lively as breeding, but still worth seeing.

Be forewarned, on hot sunny days, there’s nothing quite like the aroma of a molting elephant seal.

The island

The 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 refuge to a variety of Cormorants, Pompano Beach Wildlife Removal and Sea Lions.

You may walk around 3-miles during a tour at Año Nuevo. Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes, as your guided walk will take you over diverse terrain such as sand dunes, and you know what it is like to trudge in sand.

Also, wear proper headgear since the tours go, rain or shine – and umbrellas aren’t permitted.

NOTE: there’s an accessible boardwalk through van for those needing mobility assistance. Request 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 rewarding Marine Education Center located inside the park boundaries with interesting animal, plant, and geological exhibits, together with information about the colorful history of the region.

If you go

Treat yourself and your loved ones to a trip with the magnificent elephant seals.