Wonders of the Beach

Elephant Seals Steal Our Hearts

A Santa Cruz fest will spotlight these powerful beasties, but you can find an ocean-close California rookery, too, to admire.

Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images

EAGER TO SEE ELEPHANT SEALS? Then you'll make the journey to a place like Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, in San Simeon, where humans are invited to watch the minute-by-minute events of a sizable colony, all while standing at a respectful distance. Eager to know more about elephant seals? A number of spots where the marine mammals gather have informative displays, the sort of exhibits that help a visitor to know more about what elephant seals eat, their mating rituals, and when the pupping season takes place. Of course, if you're not near a nexus of elephant seal majesty, you can always find out more. For there's a full...

ELEPHANT SEAL WEEKEND, happening through Feb. 16 in Santa Cruz, and it is highlighting several corners of these sand-sleeping, water-cruising, pup-nursing icons of the beach. Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab is the place, so make for this hub of science knowledge to see "(u)nique pop-up exhibits" and take a crack at being a citizen scientist (you'll "analyze drone photos to identify and count" the critters that call upon Año Nuevo Island). And will there also be a spotlight on sea lions and other aquatic animals? That's part of the nature-embracing celebration, too.

OF COURSE, you can call upon a California rookery at most any time of the year, and you'll always seem something a bit different, from molting to the not-so-wee pups that elicit oohs and ahhs from onlookers. Want to know what's happening on the sand at San Simeon, month-by-month? Friends of the Elephant Seal keeps an excellent calendar. As for the "peak of mating" at Piedras Blancas, one of the most popular Golden State spots to admire the blubber-beautiful, whisker-amazing animals? It happens around, you guessed it, Valentine's Day.

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