Why We Love It: California's sea lion and seals are much beloved animals that are quite easy to spot in the wild. (Remember how we told you all about the elephant seal rookery along the Central Coast?) But they often get into trouble, thanks in part to humans (namely trash and occasionally fishing lines) and other environmental factors. During the winter months, baby sea lions and seals get stranded on the beach when their moms take too long to find food. Hungry and sick, these pups are then rescued by the Marine Mammal Care Center, whose mission is to nourish the pups back to health and then release them into the wild again. Typically, this is about a three-months long process. During their stay, the pups get three meals of juicy herring along with whatever medical attention they might need. While they are in the "hospital", vistors can get a closer look at these truly adorable and friendly animals.
What Ages: We'd recommend elementary school children make this visit in order to have the most impact. The sea lions and seals are cute to look at (they love coming up to the fence to see who's greeting them), but you also want to be able to explain why they are in the pens and what will happen to them. Here's the center's marketing coordinator showing off actual contents that have been pulled from a seal's stomach. Ugh.
When to Go: The winter months like February and March are when the MMCC sees the most of its "patients" as that's immediately after the birthing season for seals and sea lions. Hence, there are a lot of pups that need to be rescued. That said, the center is open every day of the week during daylight hours. But the gift shop is open from 10am to 4pm.
How Much Does It Cost? It's FREE! But you should at least donate a meal for a seal while you're there. $10 will give a seal three meals. Or you can feed three seals one meal. Whatever you want! Another good way to help out is to book your hotel stay through KindTraveler.com. $10 of your nightly hotel rate will go to a local or global charity of your choice, but the Marine Mammal Care Center is on Kind Traveler's charity list.
Good to Know: If you see any stranded or distressed marine life in the Los Angeles area, here's who to call:
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