A tip: Visit the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., for the early afternoon daily feeding. From a tiered deck with a bird's-eye view of 18 new pens and pools, you'll see volunteers giving fish shakes and other nourishment to seals and sea lions, bawling pups among them. Eyes will be moist—definitely theirs, maybe yours too.
Any time you visit, you might see a sea lion recovering from entrapment in a fishing net. Or a harbor seal getting an ultrasound, or an elephant seal pup being rehydrated intravenously. The 34-year-old facility, newly rebuilt with $32 million in government and private funds, is now bringing visitors into the heart of its work of rescue, rehab, research, and education.
"We're giving people visual, aural, and olfactory access to everything we do," says Dr. Jeff Boehm, the executive director. Visitors gazing through huge windows see staff blending herring into feed and watch veterinarians confer; the brave can look in on the necropsy suite as scientists perform autopsies to help save lives in the future. In the Marin Headlands off Bunker Road at Rodeo Beach. (415) 289-7325, marinemammalcenter.org.
Photography by Gabriela Hasbun
This article was first published in July 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.