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Kayak tours of Monterey Bay.

Eye to eye, sharing their element, is one of the most engaging ways to see marine mammals where they are most numerous in California's Monterey Bay.

Year-round kayak tours now bring a dozen visitors at a time within good viewing range of sea lions dozing on the rocks and sea otters preening each other on floating kelp piles or even tugging curiously at your paddle blade. As you paddle into Heritage Harbor at Fisherman's Wharf harbor seals splash just a few feet away, barking loudly as they announce their presence.

No previous experience or special qualifications are needed to join 3-hour tours. The first half-hour is spent learning safety procedures, and how to work the paddle and rudder. Two passengers share each kayak, so paddling at speeds of 4 to 8 mph comes easily.

The bay tours depart twice each day, year-round, whenever at least four passengers sign up. Owners suggest children be at least in their early teens before coming along. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent. Summer weekend trips often fill up a month in advance; weekday trips get less traffic. Cost: $48.

Ask about longer outings along the Big Sur coast and elsewhere. Sign up with Monterey Bay Kayaks, 693 Del Monte Ave., Monterey 93940; (408) 373-5357.
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Date:Sep 1, 1987
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