The Southern sea otter – also referred to as the California sea otter – is much and away my favourite animal. With its thick fur, candy smile, and loving care of its younger, the ocean otter delights observers with its twisting dives and playful nature.
After I was supplied the chance to come across sea otters within the wild, I jumped on a airplane to Monterey, hopped right into a kayak, and spent a memorable day floating within the kelp forest with these charismatic creatures. The habitat of the California sea otter stretches from San Mateo County within the north, right down to Santa Barbara.
The present whole inhabitants of California sea otters hovers round 3,000 animals. Whereas it’s attainable to come across sea otters all alongside this stretch of the California shoreline, Monterey Bay is residence to the very best focus of sea otters. In truth, there are round 500 within the Bay and the Elkhorn Slough estuary, so you might be virtually assured to identify a couple of furry mates when you get out on the water.
Discover ways to kayak with Monterery Bay sea otters and rise up shut and private with these lovable creatures.
About California Sea Otters
California sea otters are thought-about a keystone species: their well being is an indicator of the general well-being of the opposite species within the ecosystem and of their habitats. On common, the Southern sea otter measures 5 toes and 50-70 kilos and is the smallest marine mammal in North America.
Sea otters haven’t any blubber to maintain them heat, however very thick fur, measuring a million hairs per sq. inch. For comparability, most people have lower than 100,000 hairs on their heads. Otters’ thick fur led trappers to hunt the mammals to close extinction within the seventeenth and 18th centuries, as their coats – nicknamed ‘comfortable gold’ had been prized for gloves and different outerwear.
The 1911 Fur Seal Treaty put a cease to the searching of fur seals and sea otters, however consultants imagine the entire present inhabitants of California sea otters is about 1% of their numbers earlier than searching started. Due each to their close to extinction from being hunted, and the shut proximity of their habitat to people, the California sea otter stays a threatened species.
Sea otters have an especially excessive metabolism and must eat continuously to maintain heat. In truth, they eat 25-30% of their weight every day in sea urchins in addition to all kinds of mussels, clams, crabs, and different invertebrates. By grazing on sea urchins, sea otters shield the large kelp, a favourite snack of the urchins. The hungry purple urchins have decimated these important marine forests, creating what are known as “urchin barrens” the place nothing else can stay. The ocean otters hold the urchin inhabitants in test, and the kelp helps a wealthy group of vegetation and animals.
The wholesome ecosystem and plentiful kelp forest of Monterey Bay are due largely to the presence of the protected sea otter inhabitants.
About Monterey Bay
The Monterey Bay Nationwide Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1992, defending an unlimited wildlife reserve and ecosystem. It’s the biggest marine sanctuary in the USA.
Monterey Bay is residence to the biggest expanse of kelp beds within the nation, that are populated with crabs, octopus, and lots of of species of fish in addition to 34 completely different marine mammals together with sea lions, seals, dolphins, whales, and naturally, sea otters.
One in every of North America’s largest underwater canyons, Monterey Bay is taken into account one of the vital productive marine ecosystems on the earth.
Kayaking with Monterey Bay Sea Otters
The city of Monterey hosts a number of sea kayak tour outfitters. The type of us at Adventures by the Sea, an out of doors recreation firm that has been working for over three a long time, outfitted my pal Karen and me for our kayak tour. Our information, Jan, has been main sea kayak excursions in Monterey for over twenty years. Her calm and professional information of all of the native wildlife enhanced the expertise. We might have simply rented kayaks and gone out on our personal, however Jan’s operating commentary offered helpful and fascinating information and observations.
Nearly instantly after launching off a floating dock, we turned the nook within the harbor and noticed a small raft of sea otters resting among the many sailboats and yachts.
Jan informed us to remain 5 kayak lengths away from the otters. Their fur is so thick that when they’re resting, they should clear themselves and dry out their fur. This course of can take hours and when the otters get scared, they dive underwater and should start the drying course of throughout, which is exhausting.
From a distance, we watched because the otters rolled and dove. There have been dozens of mama and pup pairs within the Bay the day of our tour. The mamas had been instructing their adolescent-looking pups to dive; at instances the mamas would seize their babe by the scruff to distance themselves from our kayaks. When a mama obtained separated from her younger, she rose midway out of the water and made a screeching name, “the place are you?” and virtually instantly her pup surfaced for a cheerful reunion.
As we left the harbor, the breaker wall was lined with cormorants, gulls, sea lions, and harbor seals. The gathering of sea mammal sounds and smells heightened the distinction between the grownup toys docked within the marina and the wild aspect of Monterey Bay.
Our group paddled towards Cannery Row and encountered a kelp forest. Sea otters use the kelp to relaxation, anchoring themselves to the lengthy strands of big kelp which can be connected to the seafloor. The otters will raft up, nestling into the kelp to groom, eat and relax with their mates. The mamas typically tie up their pups within the kelp after they hunt, and otters often maintain arms to maintain from floating away.
I floated subsequent to 1 small raft of otters for fairly a while. I might really feel how the kelp stored my sit-on-top-kayak secure regardless of the sizeable waves and foam. We simply floated there collectively. Another teams of otters had been too nervous after I approached, even at a wholesome distance. The mamas took off virtually instantly. However this one white-faced otter and I simply frolicked collectively within the California solar. She turned and wiggled, trying to find a comfortable spot in her kelp mattress. At instances she even put up her toes/flippers to relaxation, taking within the lovely morning and her human floating pal.
What to carry kayaking with sea otters in Monterey Bay
Layers are necessary when kayaking in Monterey Bay. Because of the ever-changing marine layer, it may be fairly chilly and foggy, even on a summer time morning, after which hotter within the afternoon. Be sure that to carry the next:
I might additionally make a powerful suggestion for a change of garments so you possibly can change instantly after your kayak tour. We ended up with moist backsides and I needed I had introduced a change of garments with me.
Water sneakers or sandals are useful however not crucial. I went barefoot as a result of I actually didn’t wish to get my sneakers moist. Adventures by the Sea has dry luggage obtainable to make use of through the tour, however when you go kayaking by yourself you’ll doubtless wish to carry your individual dry bag.
When to go kayaking with sea otters in Monterey Bay
Mornings are typically calmer in Monterey Bay, which is preferable each for paddling and wildlife viewing. The winds typically construct all through the day, so a day paddle can turn into a bit extra treacherous. There are days when the reverse is true; it may be windy within the morning and calm within the afternoon. It’s greatest to observe the water, the climate report and be versatile. Our tour was scheduled lengthy earlier than the journey, however we ended up kayaking a day earlier as a result of a large wind and rainstorm got here by means of on the day of our initially scheduled tour.
Sea otters stay in Monterey Bay year-round and are sometimes seen even from the docks and walkways on Cannery Row. I used to be more than happy to see otter mamas and pups in October, however one of the best time for viewing child otters is late March by means of August.
What to Count on When Kayaking with Sea Otters in Monterey Bay
Sea kayaking utilizing the sit-on-top kayak is fairly forgiving. They’re simple to navigate, and Adventures by the Sea affords fundamental paddling directions prior to every tour. Children between 5 – 14 years outdated are welcome to hitch a tour in a tandem kayak, and folk 14 and up can use a single. Out within the Bay, kayakers can use the kelp similar to the otters to raft up and relaxation, particularly when the waves roll by means of or the wind picks up. Be sure that to maintain 50 toes or extra distance from all space marine life. Sea otters are wild animals, and also you don’t wish to startle or disturb them.
Despite the fact that our scheduled tour was set for less than two hours, near the turnaround time Jan mentioned we might return the kayaks every time we wished. Karen and I might have stayed out all day. Lengthy after our tour ended, we paddled again, a serious bucket record merchandise having been checked off.
The raft of otters who hand around in the marina had been there to say goodbye. It’s not simply that the southern sea otter is cute, but it surely’s like they know me. They’re the embodiment of all I hope to be – joyful, clever, and a extremely good mother.
What questions do you might have about kayaking with Monterey Bay sea otters? Is that this one thing you’d wish to do? Tell us within the feedback!