Get close to Monterey-area seals and otters

"Look, he's periscoping." Captain Yohn Gideon is pointing to aharbor seal near our boat. The seal pokes the top half of his headout of the water, looks around, then silently sinks like a scoperetracting. It's an amusing sight and a great start to ourpontoon-boat tour into Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing, 15 milesnorth of Monterey.

Today, with the hills a vivid green and the water glassy, it'seasy to see why spring is Gideon's favorite time in Elkhorn Slough.Our boat noses into the tidal marsh, and we spot nesting egrets andbarking sea lions. But Gideon is looking for pups.

"The slough's safe, calm waters make this a paradise for seaotters and harbor seals," he says. From now into May, you'll findboth mammals here ― including many seal and otter pups.

Farther up the inlet, harbor seals jam the banks like so muchdriftwood. We can make out tiny gray seal pups clinging to theirmothers. In the water nearby, we spot three sea otters floating ontheir backs, each with a youngster riding on its stomach. It's amemorable sight, and our journey closes with that feature of mostsafaris ― a lot of clicking cameras.

INFO: Reservations are required for Elkhorn Slough Safaritours (daily; $27, $19 ages 14 and under; www.elkhornslough.com or831/633-5555).

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