Sharks and whales and manatees—oh my! For a kid fascinated bymarine life, there’s nothing more exciting than interacting with afinned friend in its natural habitat. Got a water baby in yourfamily? Here are four encounters that let you get up-close andpersonal with some not-so-scary sea creatures.
Go Eye-to-Eye With a Blue Whale: Dana Point,California
In Southern California, the greatest show on earth happens everyyear from May to October, when blue whales arrive by thehundredfold to spend the summer in the krill-rich waters off DanaPoint. For an intimate look at these ocean giants, which can growup to 100 feet long, hop onboard CaptainDave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari, departing from Dana PointHarbor. There’s no need to bring a waterproof camera; the 50-footManute’a sailing catamaran is equipped with two underwaterviewing pods for close encounters with whales and dolphins.
Snorkel with Sea Turtles: Oahu, Hawaii
The quartet of manmade, crescent-shaped lagoons at Ko Olina onOahu are slices of calm-water heaven for families with smallchildren. Once a haven for Hawaiian royalty to rest and relax, thearea now attracts local beach goers and guests from Aulani,the Disney resort. Wild Side Specialty Tours, based inWai'anae, offers opportunities to swim with wild dolphins orsnorkel up to a “turtle cleaning station” where you can witness seaturtles being groomed by reef fish. Traveling with toddlers? Attendthe daily, oh-so-tame fish feeding session at JWMarriott Ihilani Resort.
Sidle Up to Manatees: Crystal River,Florida
They may resemble prehistoric cows, but these slow-moving,gentle marine giants are actually more closely related to theelephant. The harmless herbivores are attracted to the kind ofshallow, warm rivers and mangroves you find in western Florida. InHomosassa, 70 miles north of Tampa,Snorkel With Manatees offers a variety of tours on the CrystalRiver, one of the country’s most popular areas to snorkel and kayakwith manatees. Traveling between July and September? Consider afull-day scallop charter, which includes a scenic tour and an “Easter egg hunt” where kids can snorkel in three-feet-deep waterand pluck scallops from the river floor.
Swim with Leopard Sharks: La Jolla Shores,California
Get the “Jaws” soundtrack out of your head. There’s no need tofear the gray-striped leopard sharks that gather every summer bythe thousands off LaJolla Shores, near San Diego; they are harmless bottom feederswith small mouths designed to eat clams, shrimp and crabs. Localfamilies vouch for the beach at Kellogg Park, in front of theMarine Room Restaurant (2000 Spindrift Dr.). Forgot your goggles orsnorkel gear? There are shops within walking distance that sell allmanner of water gear.
Kristi Marcelle, a California based-freelance writer, contributedthis to MiniTime.com
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