On our tours, we often encounter many of San Diego’s marine creatures. And the star attractions are sea lions and seals! Most folks don’t know the difference, and to be honest, neither did I. So I decided to do some research to give our passengers a clear answer.
So here it is. Harbor seals have a short body and short flippers with relatively large heads. Their ears are small holes, and they move by mostly flopping and wriggling on their bellies…kind of like caterpillars. They stay fairly close to shore, typically within 10 miles, and they make a relatively quiet grunting sound. They are excellent swimmers and generate their propulsion mainly from their rear flippers.
Sea lions have a longer body and larger flippers. They are almost like water dogs, and have small ear flaps as opposed to holes. Their heads also tend to be in proportion with their bodies. They move on land by “walking” on their flippers with an articulating hip bone that allows them to “stand” more upright. They, too, are excellent swimmers and generate their propulsion from their front flippers. They are also herd animals. You will see them in large groups sunning on the docks. But more importantly, you will hear them first! They make a large, barking sound and can be quite aggressive when compared to their seal cousins.
We mostly see seals and sea lions in America’s Cup Harbor or over at the bait docks. But these clever creatures will also follow the fishing boats…looking for bait scraps. They know the deal!
If you’re in town for a visit, head up to La Jolla shores where they live in abundance throughout the year. This is a beautiful area with great beaches and restaurants. It’s definitely worth making this part of your trip.
And if you happen to be in town in February / March, this is pup season. It’s not uncommon to see some live seal and sea lion births!
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Looking forward to serving you onboard soon!