Monterey Bay Pier

Sailing the High Seas in Search of Monterey’s Sea Life


The link between Monterey Bay and the sea is inescapable. Its unique ocean habitats have made the area home to seals, sea otters, dolphins, whales and albatrosses, which in turn has transformed the land surrounding the bay into all things sea life: from the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, to Fisherman’s Wharf, heck even in John Steinbeck’s literature Monterey’s relationship with the sea is featured.

And so, with the opportunity to see the aquatic residents of this area up-close and in their own natural habitat, we boarded a ship with the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Centre and headed out to sea.

The boat headed out of the harbour early, when the wharf was void of landlubbers and the aquatic locals were enjoying having the space to themselves. From the boat we watched sea otters play in the waves, and seals jump around with friends.

After numbing my face in the wind to avoid sea-sickness, the real work began: whale spotting. As the company we booked with only use migratory and residency patterns, previous sightings and the abundance of other nearby wildlife to spot whales, it was all hands on deck in the morning.

What makes Monterey such a rich breeding ground for ocean life is its mixture of special habitats. The sea floor drops into a canyon fairly close to the coast, meaning the primary food source for whales congregates in this area. In addition to this the kelp forests along the coastline provide an ideal environment for sea otters, and the abundance of fish and outcrop rocks by the coastline also provides good conditions for seals. This also means visitors are nearly guaranteed to see whales, seals and otters year-round in Monterey, which makes it such a popular destination.

It wasn’t long until we spotted the tell-tale mist of a whale’s blowhole clouding the horizon, and their fins waving at us in the distance. For hours we watched as a mixture of grey, humpback and blue whales surfaced the water and frolicking around the sea.

By the afternoon we were back on the mainland, and exploring Monterey’s canning quarter in between chowing down on bowls of clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The canning factories were immortalised in the writer John Steinbeck’s works, particularly Cannery Row. Worker’s shanty houses, wooden laboratories, as well as the factories themselves remain in the area to step back in time and explore the Monterey of Steinbeck’s time. Last but not least, there is the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, home to thousands of plants and animals.


Yet nothing beats lazing around on Monterey Bay’s beach and watching the animals in their own habitat. Or should that be the other way around?

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