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Gray whale watching by kayak near La Jolla Shores

January 7, 2009 |  2:26 pm

A barnacle-encrusted gray whale announces its presence.

Each fall, over 20,000 gray whales migrate from the waters of Alaska to Baja California, where the females give birth to their calves. During this migration, they pass near the Southern California coast.

Imagine getting up close to these magnificent mammals without the sound of a boat engine breaking the silence. La Jolla Kayak offers the chance to do so with their 2 1/2-hour guided ocean kayak whale watching tour. While the outfit can't guarantee that you will see gray whales, they track sightings near La Jolla Shores throughout the winter, increasing the chance that there will be encounters with these gentle giants.

The tour takes participants through some spectacular coastline, including La Jolla's Seven Caves and the Underwater Reserve, to about one mile offshore to hopefully catch a glimpse of the whales. Along the way, sea lions, leopard sharks, garibaldi and other marine life may be spotted.

Tours leave twice daily, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., through Feb. 15. Cost for these tours are $60 per person for a single kayak, $110 per couple for a double kayak. This includes the guided tour with a certified instructor, transportation of kayaks to and from the beach, a training session, wetsuit, life vest, backrest and paddle. For more information and reservations, visit the website at www.lajollakayak.com or call (858) 459-1114.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A barnacle-encrusted gray whale announces its presence. Credit: Pete Thomas/Los Angeles Times