San Diego is one of my favorite places. It's become my second home since moving out west. The culture is awesome, really laid back and casual, with lots of positive energy and new things to discover.
My most recent adventure in the city is a spot called The Living Coast Discovery Center. It's a non-profit facility that inspires care and exploration of the living Earth by connecting people with coastal animals, plants and habitats. My husband and I are both really passionate about animal protection and ocean conservation, so it seemed like a really great way to spend a Friday afternoon!
It's really easy to get to, located in the southern part of SD, in Chula Vista. Parking is free, and admission is under $20.00. (Discounts available for military, first responders, students, etc.)
When you arrive, you're greeted by two giant sea turtles. They're pretty adorable, and I could have just watched them the whole visit. They're really fascinating creatures. And if you've seen finding Nemo, they got the sea turtle spot on with Crush's character! We learned a lot about their status (they're endangered) and ways to protect them and help their family grow.
Next, we got to spend some time in the shark and stingray experience. There are four different local shark species in the exhibit with multiple underwater viewing areas, and lots of friendly stingrays. Another turtle also lives in this exhibit. Her name is Sapphire. She was discovered in a canal in Islamorada in the Florida Keys. She sustained an injury when she was younger, which made her a target for dangerous boat propellers. She was rescued and brought to The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) and released into the wild after rehabilitation. Unfortunately, three years later, Sapphire was re-admitted when she was discovered again with boat related injuries. Sapphire could not be released into the wild again, so she made her way to San Diego on a flight from a generous donation on behalf of FedEx. The animals in this exhibit are healing from attacks or accidents in the ocean. They get to live out their lives here without worrying about predators.
Another exhibit I really enjoyed was Eagle Mesa. We got to meet Franklin, the bald eagle. He's at the Living Coast because he suffered an extensive injury to his wing, and can not fly or hunt. He's a pretty quick runner though! Dorado is a golden eagle. He, like Franklin, can not fly because he was hit by a car, damaging his wing. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a bird that can't fly, but I'm glad there are places like this to care for these beautiful birds. (We weren't able to get any good photos of the eagles though. Boo!)
I also learned that seahorses really like to cuddle and there are many Nemo and Dorys, and they're always friends!
The Living Coast also invites local schools in for educational field trips, hosts ocean clean ups twice a month, and offers a hands on program for people interested in working with animals. Since it is a non-profit, they rely on visitors and donations to continue to maintain the life and health of San Diego Bay’s native animals. If you're interested in donating, please click here!