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San Francisco Bay Area: Coastal Wildlife Tours

Join us in our own backyard to explore one of the most exciting marine environments on Earth on a two or four day program featuring marine mammals, seabirds, river otters, and more.

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Overview

  • Visit the Farallon Islands for the opportunity to see humpback and blue whales, the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous U.S., and more.
  • Benefit from Oceanic Society’s >45 year history in the Bay Area as you explore the region’s marine and coastal habitats through our lens.
  • Look for wild river otters and learn about research and conservation efforts.
  • Enjoy photography instruction from Bay Area conservation photographer, Jaymi Heimbuch.
  • Custom programs are available for groups of 2 or more, year-round.

Oceanic Society was founded in San Francisco in 1969 and today we still call the Bay Area home. Take advantage of our extensive network of naturalists, photographers, and conservation partners on a 2 to 4-day guided nature program in the San Francisco Bay area. Enjoy a whale watching trip to the incredible Farallon Islands (available May through November) for the opportunity to see feeding humpback and blue whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, and the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous United States. We’ll also visit the River Otter Ecology Project to learn about their research on the little-known river otter population in northern California and to look for wild river otters, and we'll explore Point Reyes National Seashore, a breathtaking natural area home to tule elk, bobcats, coyote, raptors, elephant seals, and more.

Our scheduled departures will be guided by Bay Area resident, conservation photographer, and environmental writer, Jaymi Heimbuch, who has extensive knowledge of Bay Area wildlife and conservation issues, as well as by our local whale watching naturalists, who have a wealth of knowledge and decades of experience. Jaymi will offer one-on-one photographic instruction during the program. An optional third day may be added dedicated to wildlife and nature photography, guided by Jaymi and suited to your particular interests.

Custom activities, dates, and program lengths are also available to suit your interests and timeframe—contact us to discuss your needs.

Trip Dates & Cost

2017: October 14–15. From $850 per person.* Group limit 6. Please contact us for details or to register.

Custom dates and programs are available upon request, year-round for groups of 2 or more.

* Trip price includes arranged activities and local naturalist guide only. Total group size will affect final pricing as follows (1-3: $1,000/person | 4 or more: $850/person). Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Jaymi Heimbuch is an environmental news writer for Mother Nature Network and a conservation photojournalist. Her work has appeared in print and online publications worldwide. Jaymi is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and is an Affiliate with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). She is also the author of the award-winning book The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction. Jaymi has always had a profound interest in wildlife and the natural world. Learn more about Jaymi at jaymiheimbuch.com.

Itinerary

This is a sample two-day itinerary. Custom itineraries are available for groups of two or more, year-round. Some activities (e.g. Farallon Islands trip) are seasonal; alternative activities are available year-round.

Day 1: Farallon Islands Whale and Bird Watching Cruise
Meet our whale watching vessel, the Salty Lady, in the morning in either San Francisco or Sausalito and join an 8-hour whale and bird watching cruise to the Farallon Islands guided by one of our expert local naturalists. The Farallon Islands, just 27 miles off San Francisco, lie amid the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a food-rich marine ecosystem that attracts whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and seabirds each summer and fall to feed and to breed. Researchers have catalogued hundreds of individual humpback and blue whales as seasonal feeding residents. 36 species of marine mammals, including 18 species of whales and dolphins, and more than 250,000 nesting seabirds can be found here. You will return to the dock around 4pm.

Day 2: Visit to River Otter Ecology Project & Point Reyes National Seashore
After a day on the ocean spotting marine life, we head inland and spend half a day with Megan Isadore, founder of the River Otter Ecology Project, who will guide us on a relaxed 2–3 hour hike through riparian habitat in the natural beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore. River otters have made a remarkable recovery after being extirpated from most of the San Francisco Bay Area by the mid-20th-century, and we will have a high likelihood of spotting river otters and watching them as they feed or groom. With Megan's guidance we will look for otters, signs of otters, and also learn how these charismatic predators’ return offers hope in restoration and conservation. Your naturalist, Jaymi Heimbuch, will also assist you with capturing images of these charismatic animals and the habitat in which they live.

The second half of the day will be dedicated to wildlife watching in Point Reyes National Seashore, a place famous for sightings of tule elk—the only species of elk endemic to California—as well as bobcats, coyotes, raptors and elephant seals. The park is home to more than 1500 species of plants and animals, found amid its breathtaking beaches and rocky headlands, open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges.

Day 3 (optional): Custom Wildlife Photography Expedition
You can add an optional third day onto your trip dedicated to wildlife photography. Jaymi will guide you through some of her favorite local areas for wildlife and nature photography based on your interests, whether that is birds, mammals, or the local flora.

Accommodations

Accommodations are not included in the pricing of this program, which caters to both locals and visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area. We are happy to suggest convenient and comfortable accommodations to match your budget during your stay.

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