Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ano Nuevo SP - Elephant Seal Guided Walk

At the end of March Anil and I went to Ano Nuevo SP for a guided walk to learn more about elephant seals. I saw elephant seals twice before and I read a little bit about them, but it was a first time that I would be seeing them on an organized tour, with a guide.

Ano Nuevo SP is the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal. Here, between December 15 and March 31, thousands of them come ashore to battle for mates, give birth, rest, and mate again. During that time the park can only be accessed via guided three-mile walks that lasts about two and a half hours. The tours are extremely popular, so advance reservations are a must.

I had high hopes for the tour, but unfortunately they did not get met. It seems to me that in order to enjoy the tour one would have to have close to zero knowledge about elephant seals, or to have never seen them before. The animals are truly impressive, but spending over 2h listening to a guide who does not tell you anything that you do not know is rather painful. And no, it was not a fault of our guide. She definitely did her best and tried to be funny and entertaining. I think there is a more general problem with the tour organization and I would suggest to the park to shorten them to 1h. The same information content could be transferred during that time, and it would be less boring both for adults and kids.

So if you are planning to go on one of those guided walks, I suggest you do not do your homework and do not read any information on elephant seals that is offered e.g. on the park's website and in the visitor's center...

Rugged coast south of Ano Nuevo:

Ano Nuevo SP is located on the former area of a dairy ranch:

Droplets of rain on leaves:

A shipwreck:

An abandoned building on Ano Nuevo Island:

A couple months old elephant seals:

The bravest weaners are taking first dives and learning to swim:

The elephant seal bulls are fourteen to sixteen feet long and weigh up to 2.5 tons: