It’s a bus – it’s a boat – no it’s both! The Seal Tour company operates open-air amphibious vehicles that transport guests on unique and interesting tours of San Diego Bay. The tour commences with a hearty rendition of the theme from “Gilligan’s Island.”
“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship… for a three hour tour…”
Instead of a “three-hour tour,” the Seal journey takes 90 minutes, with 30 of those minutes spent driving along the waterfront.
The city has a different look to it from an open-air bus, high above the cars. The scents of the city are evident – trees, flowers and the sea-salted wind off the water. When we passed the Star of India we were fortunate to see her sails flying. Then it was on to Shelter Island where we entered the bay and our bus became a boat.
For me, it was not just the tour itself that was of interest, it was the novelty of riding in an amphibious vehicle. All of sudden – splash – you are in the water and your bus magically begins to float.
Before you embark on your journey please note there are no restroom facilities onboard. If you have long hair be sure to clip or tie it back before you start the tour. If you don’t, your hair will soon be flipping around and tying itself in knots.
In case you are a bit nervous about the whole land/sea vehicle experience, the guide will assure you that the amphibious vehicles are Coast Guard-approved and the captains competent on both land and sea. All the excursions are led by an experienced crew, so you have an opportunity to get a taste of sea salt on your face, with no worries. The guides are knowledgeable about the local marine life, seabirds and history.
The sky was a cloudless deep blue the day I took the Seal Tour. As the Seal splashed out into San Diego Bay, seabirds flew overhead or perched on boats – a few sleek white egrets, some not-so-sleek pelicans, shiny black cormorants and the ever-present seagulls.
As we motored out into the bay, we passed anchored yachts then slowed to view a California Sea Lion that was lazily perched on buoy number 17.
The Seal slowed as we came upon docks crammed with sea lions. It was a docking area for anchovy boats. Most of the sea lions were stretched out in the sun, but a few were swimming near the docks hoping to get a bite of an anchovy or two.
“The sea lions congregate where there is a source of food,” the guide explained.
We then circled back to view the area where the US Navy trains dolphins. It’s a restricted area so the Seal had to keep a distance. Next time I will bring binoculars. But, as it was, we were close enough to be able to watch the dolphins jumping out of the water.
Once back on land, the Seal stopped for a “kelp check” to make sure that the vehicle didn’t trail kelp all the way back to Seaport Village. No kelp this time. It was “all clear” and we were on our way.
To further entice guests, Seal Tours is participating in a program called “Hometown Pass,” available to all residents of San Diego County. Just access www.hometownpass.com, sign up for the free program and you will be able to enjoy a two-for-one opportunity. Each Hometown Pass holder rides free when accompanied by a guest who has purchased a full-fare adult ticket. The accompanying guest must purchase their ticket on a Historic Tours of America tour or at a HTA ticket booth. (A ticket book is situated at the Seal Tour embarkation point at Seaport Village located at 500 Kettner Boulevard.)
Do yourself a favor and escape to the bay on a Seal Tour!
Further information can be found at www.sealtours.com or by calling (619) 298-8687.