I'll start by admitting that the entire reason we visited Monterey during a two-week roadtrip in the Southwest was completely and totally because of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the sea otters. All of my research for the trip mentioned kayaking to see the otters in their natural habitat. I haven't kayaked for over 10 years and my SO has never kayaked, but we are moderately fit and really interested in the experience so we booked the two-hour guided tour of Elkhorn Slough. We are city slickers and this is not something we get to do on a daily basis.
I was extremely nervous as we drove up from Monterey, worried that I'd tip over getting into the kayak or that they wouldn't have paddling clothes big enough for me (I am a plus-sized lady), being cold out on the water for two hours, or any number of other silly concerns. I should not have worried. The staff at MBK were incredibly friendly and pleasant and our guide, Katie, was absolutely amazing - her energy and enthusiasm were just off the charts. She quickly outfitted us in "Farmer Jane/John" overall type dry suits and a paddling jacket, pointing out that that was what she was going to wear, and they had every possible size available. It was a very cool morning and once in the gear any worries of being cold on the water evaporated. We brought our own water shoes which we'd picked up for $5 at Walmart, as well as towels, eye glass holders and a disposable waterproof camera - they sold many of those items there but I had read the website in advance and picked them up earlier in the trip to save some time and money. MBK held our car keys and cell phones at the front desk.
The rest of our group was running late and they were totally prepared to send us out without them, instead of making us wait, but they showed up shortly thereafter and we went out to the slough on time.
When we walked down to the water, we could see groups of seals and otters immediately nearby, either on the water or on the beach - this was without going out into the boat! Katie launched our three boats and then went over some paddling basis. We immediately paddled out into the slough and towards the first raft of otters. Katie explained that we should follow her lead in terms of keeping a distance between ourselves and any wildlife and was always very aware and alert to animals near us.
We chose the earliest trip on a Sunday morning and there were only six of us, unlike the huge group we'd seen out on the slough when passing through the day before. And there was an embarrassment of riches in terms of wildlife- we saw THREE rafts of otters, including two baby otters, and an enormous gathering of seals and sea lions gathered on the boating docks. It was amazing to watch these animals in their native habitat, while sitting on the water.
Yes, it required some physical effort. We paddled about three miles and there was some current. Katie was incredibly patient and encouraging and kept telling us all how great we were doing. She was also highly knowledgeable about the wildlife and ecosystem of the area at a very technical level - and this was after spending a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium *and* taking a private tour.
While we were there, one of the slough cruises I had originally considered taking, because I was too scared to kayak, came by. It looked cramped and crowded and of course the boat couldn't come as close as we could. I was very very glad that I'd taken the chance and booked the kayaking tour. I am also glad I chose the tour in Elkhorn Slough as opposed to the one in the bay because the water of the slough was much less intimidating.
Great outfit, great tour, great equipment, really amazing experience.
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