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When someone told me they went snorkeling with leopard sharks in La Jolla, San Diego, I just knew this was the perfect adventure for me to try myself. What better excuse to spend a weekend down in beautiful San Diego and check out some wildlife? I was sold.
Luckily for me, getting to La Jolla was just a short road trip from home at the time. After finding a perfect La Jolla Hotel and doing a bit more research on the amazing phenomenon that is leopard shark breeding right in San Diego, I was ready to go.
Snorkeling with Leopard Sharks in La Jolla: Background Info
What do you mean, snorkeling with leopard sharks? Isn’t it dangerous? Why are there so many more sharks in La Jolla than anywhere else?! Let me calm those nerves for you and explain the gentle creatures and why they congregate where they do.
Leopard sharks exist naturally all up and down the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico. Because of the protected bay, warm water, ample food, and calm conditions in La Jolla, this presents them with the perfect conditions to have their babies when the season is right. From early June until sometimes as late as December, these amazing creatures gather by the hundred at La Jolla. Peak times are August and September, and I was lucky to go in August to see lots of them for myself.
Don’t let the word ‘shark’ deter you – leopard sharks are actually very gentle animals and will gladly share the shores with humans. I haven’t heard about a single time someone was harmed – they tend to be more afraid of you than you are of them! They are smaller sharks – from one to five feet, generally – and have similar markings to that of a leopard (hence the name!). So, there is hardly any danger in going out into the water to get close to these beautiful animals and have an amazing experience with nature.
Image via Flickr by Manual Millway
My Trip to La Jolla to See the Leopard Sharks
As I usually do, I had to make my trip to La Jolla into an entire experience rather than just a one-stop trip. I booked a hotel, another tour, and made myself a schedule of activities to do during my weekend in San Diego, with snorkeling with leopard sharks at the top, of course!
We arrived in the morning, because apparently this is when the sharks are the most active and there are less people around. After putting on our snorkel gear, it didn’t take very long for us to find some of them for ourselves!
All you have to do is wade out into the water until it’s about knee deep and you can see them darting around, feeding from the sand, and slowly gliding along the ocean floor together. Their patterns are beautiful, and they allowed us to silently kick along above them to observe them in their natural habitat. It was an absolutely incredible experience to swim with them and be a part of their world for a little while, and I recommend it to anyone heading to La Jolla!