The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a natures lover's 'must see', and I found a sea kayak to be a relaxing, quiet and effective method of transportation. As the second largest protected marine area in the world, over 25 rare and endangered species make the bay their home.
The rental shop recommended a morning tour of the bay since the winds tend to pick up in the afternoon and can make paddling a challenge when heading back to the beach. Taking their advice, I was up early and on the water before 8AM, which was easy since the outfitter was literally steps from my hotel. At that time of the day, I had the Bay to myself; actually, while I was the only person on the water, I was anything but alone. Sea lions basked on rocks all along the shore, gulls drifted lazily on the morning breezes and rested on the water, and sea otters hunted for abilone for breakfast.
I paddled along the bay toward the open water and past Cannery Row and the aquarium. The sea lions were waking up now and several slid into the water to hunt breakfast as well. Every now and then one would appear near my boat, curious, maybe to say good morning. Regardless of their intent, they made my morning.
Since the primary reason for a marine sanctuary is to protect the life in it, kayakers are prohibited from getting too close to the animals. But no rules prevent curious animals from coming up to kayaks for a closer look. As I paddled toward the breakwater that is home to hundreds of sea lions and harbor seals, a group of five or six decided they wanted to have a little fun. They swam towards me and then submerged, only to surface moments later all around me. I only counted four and was wondering where the others were just as they answered my question by leaping out of the water right off the bow of my kayak and startling me out of my wits.
After several hours on the water with my new friends, I decided to head back to shore tired, hungry and thrilled with my morning's adventure.