Kayaking Through Jellyfish at the Elkhorn Slough

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The Monday of Labor Day weekend seemed like a great time to rent kayaks with my favorite people and glide through the salty waters of the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing, California. This protected nature preserve opens up to the Pacific Ocean, meaning all sorts of fascinating wildlife can easily swim their way into the shallow waters for a look around. While we carefully boarded our kayaks on the sandy shore near the water's edge, our instructor warned us to keep our bare feet out of the water, even though it was inches deep where we stood. Apparently a huge smack of Pacific Sea Nettles had been sucked into the slough by the tide, along with their venomous stinging tentacles; a rare occurrence there at the slough, he assured us. (FYI, a group of jellyfish is called a "smack" - fun, right?)

Floating throughout the wetland, we saw the bright orange jellyfish in all sizes, ranging from teensy weensy to as large as dinner plates. We felt so lucky to have picked that random day to go kayaking and see countless plumes of these mesmerizing sea creatures, inches away from our boats. Learn more about Pacific Sea Nettles here.

In the photo above, you can see the smoke stacks of the Moss Landing natural gas power plant behind us, just a hundred yards away from where the ocean and slough kiss.

Interested in learning about other creatures in the Monterey Bay? Read my blog post here about the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a 25 minute drive down the coast from Moss Landing.

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The Pacific Sea Nettles we encountered looked very similar to this jellyfish. Photo by Jason Leung from Unsplash.

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My lovely sister-in-law, Phoebe, and my handsome husband, Brandon.

Side note: Learn from my blunder and wear sunscreen when you do anything outdoors, but especially when you're on the water! When we began kayaking that day, it was very foggy and overcast, which is normal on the coast, so I didn't put on any sunscreen (BIG mistake). The sun came out strong after the first hour, and I thought I was safe due to wearing a hat, long sleeve shirt, and pants, but quickly discovered that the sparse exposed parts of me were getting scorched, like the tops of my hands and the sliver of skin between where my pants ended and my shoes began. Plus, and this seems so obvious now, the sun was reflecting off the water onto my face for hours and hours, which rendered my hat useless to protect my delicate, pasty-white face from damaging rays. Let's just say, I looked like a boiled lobster for the next two weeks, and LOTS of people noticed.

Wear sunscreen, folks!

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Yes, that's a Jelly Belly hat! It's my favorite accessory. You can take the Jelly Belly factory tour right now by reading my blog post about it here.

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Planning a trip to the Elkhorn Slough? Remember to bring plenty of water and a few snacks. Just don't overdo it - by the time you realize you need to pee, you're probably at least one hour's paddle away from a bathroom! We also recommend bringing binoculars to enjoy the amazing wildlife teeming in the slough; creatures like otters, herons, and countless species of sea birds. This is their home, their natural habitat, so it's important to view them with binoculars instead of getting to close with your kayak.

On our trip, several playful otters came close to our boats, even when we tried to avoid them, so we simply stopped paddling and waited for them to pass, quietly watching. We didn't want to disturb them, but they came over to say hi anyway!

You can call ahead to determine the best time of day for exploring the slough, when the tide is safe. Past a certain time, the tide pushes strongly from the sea into the slough, so if you're caught a few miles up the passage, it's going to take a LOT of muscle to paddle back to the starting point and you'll probably just give up out of exhaustion. Not advised, so plan ahead. Happy kayaking!

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