Who Needs SeaWorld?

Baby seals, Childrens Pool Beach, La Jolla, CA

The more we see animals in the wild the less we enjoy seeing them in cages. Even the wonderfully clean and professionally administered San Diego Zoo left us feeling a bit sad when we originally visited it seven years ago. Now that we’re back in the area, we have no plans to return.

Nor do we intend to visit SeaWorld even though it sits just six short miles from our San Diego campground. Ubiquitous advertisements beckoning us with images of trained dolphins and whales literally jumping through hoops for humans only reinforce our disinterest in a theme park constructed around captured creatures. Fortunately, we found an alternative.

Seal on Childrens Pool Beach, La Jolla, California

More than 80 years ago a philanthropist commissioned a sea wall to protect a small section of the La Jolla coast from the relentlessly powerful Pacific waves. For its first six decades the wall served its original purpose by creating a calm beach for area children. In recent years, though, growing populations of seals and sea lions have discovered this section of sun-soaked sand and have now basically claimed La Jolla’s Children’s Pool Beach as their own.

Childrens Pool Beach La Jolla California

A thin rope barrier on the beach mostly separates the 200 or so wild seals that frequent Children’s Pool from the paparazzi-like tourists who congregate to ogle them frolicking in the water or, more commonly, lazily basking in the sun. Visitors during “pupping season” (from mid-January through mid-April) also have the opportunity to see fresh litters of baby seals, beautifully new-born and delightfully free. A sight not even SeaWorld can top.

Seal in the water

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26 Comments on “Who Needs SeaWorld?”

  1. Luddy's Lens February 11, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Ugh, SeaWorld. Even as a kid I thought it was harsh.

    I’m generally in agreement with you about zoos: I once saw an ape at the Los Angeles Zoo throwing clumps of dirt and grass at visitors to its open-air enclosure. Such an unhappy animal, and of course humans were egging it on.

    I do like the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, though, and the Monterey and Long Beach Aquariums; if we’re to have zoos and aquaria, this is the way they should go.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

      The Henry Doorly Zoo is one we remember fondly. I think the reason is because they go through such effort to create natural environments for the animals they keep. It is a remarkable place and probably the best zoo we’ve ever been to.

  2. Touring NH February 11, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Beautiful images. There is no substitute for animals in their own environment!

  3. digger666 February 11, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
    Exactly…

  4. karinschiller February 11, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Thank you again for this great article. It is ones again a reason why you are my favourite travel couple. Wonderful!!!! I hope that future generations will have these wonderful wild-life seals without any zoos.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      You’re too kind, as always. :-)

  5. cat February 11, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    It is sad to see animals in cages huh? But it’s great that you get to go out and see real life animals!

  6. Betty Londergan February 11, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Adorable, and so SO much better than Sea World or the big aquariums!!

  7. Deb February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I love the pictures. We tried Seaworld once, it was uncomfortable, it just seemed wrong to have animals doing tricks for people sitting in stadium seating. I am going to have to remember this beach if we are ever in the area.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      We just don’t seem to have much interest in contrived animal experiences anymore – and especially not ones charging $80 a pop like SeaWorld.

  8. LuAnn February 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Fabulous photos. The harbor seals are some of my favorites! We agree, we do not like zoos for that very reason.

  9. Gunta February 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I can’t be sure of this, but I’ve heard the local residents are attempting to do something about the seals (remove them somehow) because of the smell….. I hope that doesn’t happen of course, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      We’ve heard something similar: that people want to evict the seals so that it can be used as a children’s beach like originally intended.

      • Gunta February 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

        The ongoing battle of shrinking habitat for our wild critters. Sadly I suspect that the seals will come out the losers in this situation.

  10. Debra Kolkka February 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Gorgeous! Much better to see them free.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      We obviously agree. ;-)

  11. Rotten Ray February 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Who needs Seaworld? Or zoos? Or aquariums, in general? Anyone who does not have the opportunity to see animals in the wild is the answer. As far as shows with dolphins jumping on command, etc., I have mixed feelings. Those shows do give audiences a glimpse into what these creatures can do. Also, I think the shows may actually be good for the dolphins/whales kept in captivity even if it is to just stimulate their minds and to keep them from getting bored and destructive.

    The problem with animals in captivity is captivity. The problem with not keeping animals in captivity is that I may not care about their welfare had I not seen them in a zoo in the first place. My wanting to see animals survive in the wild is largely based on my youngest impressions of these animals at the zoos.

    Zoos and aquariums really need to work hard at making the conditions as good for the animals as possible. Places that do not should be shut down.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      I have mixed feelings, too. As with most things there are no easy answers and one size does not fit all. Certainly some places do more good than harm while others do more harm than good. My default assumption, though, is one of skepticism – especially for any organization whose primary purpose is to make a buck.

  12. Jenny February 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    We visited this spot too and loved it! Completely agree with you.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      We returned there a couple of different times. It’s right near a great little park on the coast with a wonderful walking trail. Definitely a place I would go often if I lived nearby.

  13. msdulce February 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more- the more wildlife we’re able to see in the wild, the more distasteful zoos & aquariums become. I do strongly support (WELL-run) zoological parks as a means to bring awareness of conservation issues to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to see these creatures in the wild. Unfortunately, SeaWorld isn’t one of those, and I don’t believe all animals can be kept in captivity with a reasonable quality of life (ahem… orcas). Thanks for a beautiful post on the *best* way to see wildlife!

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

      Yup. Zoos do some important work, too. We just have less need or desire to patronize them than we used to.

  14. markshimazuphotography February 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I was just at the Children’s pool this past Sunday and I love watching them scoot around on land.

    • Brian February 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      They’re funny on land. They look so slothful and awkward – nothing like the sleek and graceful swimming machines they are in the water.

  15. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) February 14, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Oh to see them in the wild like that would be the best ever. I have been to Seaworld on the GoldCoast (Australia) and we had a great day, but after reading about your experiences with seeing animals in the wild…..one has to wonder what would be more natural!!

    • Brian February 14, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      One of the differences I’ve noticed is that finding animals in the wild feels like a treat; you’re never guaranteed to see them and you never know what you’ll find so when you do, it’s something special.

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