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Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 | 2 comments

Piedras Blancas: The Place Elephant Seals Call Home

I stood on an elevated platform surveying the panorama. Blue sea and skies. Carpets of wildflowers. Reddish bluffs. Fine, warm sand.

The views are postcard perfect.  Just like commercials promoting California’s Central Coast promise.

But there is something tarnishing the entire scenario.  A hideous smell is taken by the breeze everywhere.  I even gagged a couple of times.

I learned about the creatures responsible for the smell from a brochure provided by a docent.

They can weigh up to 5,000 pounds

They spend up to 80% of their lives in the ocean.

Males battle for breeding rights for up to 100 days.

They make obnoxious sounds.

Their names come from the large proboscis (?) of the adult male.

No, I am not describing the neighbor with an aversion to using deodorant or that member of the family who insists on using the same clothes for a month. I am referring to elephant seals.

Elephant seals get their name from the elongated piece of flesh that hangs from their faces (that is what a proboscis is).  Some have compared their facial features to an elephant’s trunk.  To the relief of all females around the world, this feature occurs only on the males.

Elephant Seal in Piedras Blancas


A small stretch of beach located 5 miles north of San Simeon, CA is the largest elephant seal rookery in the West Coast. The spot is exactly located one mile south of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.  It is impossible to miss the place when driving along Highway 1.

A large parking area and a boardwalk offer easy access to view the elephant seals.  From July to August hundreds of seals can be seen in the beach.  This number increase to the thousands from January to May.  Keep in mind the entire population in the area is 17,000.


Piedras Blancas Rookery


It doesn’t matter what time of the year you stop by Piedras Blancas.  The seals are so much fun to watch.

Pay close attention to their behavior and you will leave amazed.

They sleep (what a good life).


Elephant Seal Sleeping


Elephant Seal Sleeping


They sun bath (and don’t care about their weight).


Elephant Seals Sun Bathing


They fight (called sparring).


Elephant Seals Sparring


They turn sand (don’t know why they do this).

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They extend their arms when resting.


Elephant Seals Extending Their Arms when Resting


They shed their skin (from April thru August).


Elephant Seal Shedding Skin

They get in and out of the water with peculiar moves.

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They sing.

Elephant Seals Vocalizing


And of course, they enjoy the beauty of their home.

Piedras Blancas Coast


After watching for a while, I forget about the stinky smell. Elephant seals make this picture perfect spot unique.  Without them, it would be just another beautiful beach along the coast.

Learn some moves from them, if you can stand the smell.

Have you been to an elephant seal rookery? Let me know in the comments section below.



  1. We loved visiting the elephant seals in this area. They are so much fun to watch and time does go by quickly watching their fascinating behaviors. My kids didn’t want to leave this place. You’ve captured them beautifully in their natural environment, Ruth! Love the videos too. You’re forget about the smell after awhile 🙂
    Mary @ The World Is A Book recently posted..Between Continents: Iceland’s Reykjanes PeninsulaMy Profile

  2. What hilarious creatures! I’ll have to pay them a visit the next time I’m in Cali, hopefully next year! They may be ugly and awkward, they are fierce creatures!
    Andrea recently posted..Gratuitous pics of Henry for the week.My Profile


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