When a friend told me about the hundreds of moon-jellies chilling / drifting around the Naples Canals in Long Beach, I knew I had to check them out.
Moon jellyfish range between the the size of a mug coaster to the size of a frisbee. They are often picked up by aquariums for touch exhibits as they rarely sting, and when they do, their mild venom is not fatal to humans. They are often found in shallow harbors and boat marinas, which is why we happened to see ours at a cove by the marinas of the Naples Canals in Long Beach.
As topping on top of the jellyfish cake, I learned that I could bring my dog, Clover, along in the kayak with me! I love doing outdoor activities with her to burn off her doggie-energy and see her smiling face. Though if you’ve read my Jasper & Banff NP post, you’ll remember she hated canoeing on the beautiful Lake Louise.
Tough love maybe, but I had the idea that it would be good to desensitize her to being on the water in case there is a situation where she has no choice (i.e. floods, tsunami, etc.). So, there we were on a cloudy Saturday morning in July, driving to Long Beach for some jellyfish adventures.
Upon arrival, we checked in and watched a 2-minute, mildly entertaining, safety video. We received a map, kayak & paddles, life-jackets (bring your own doggie life-jacket), and a complimentary zip-lock bag to put valuables in. And then we were all set!
We paddled off the beach and were on our way. Passed the first bridge. Passed the second bridge.
On the left, immediately after passing the second bridge is a popular area for waterskiing. The day we were there, they were having motor boat races which was pretty exciting. Even though we were all charged by the hour, per person, a number of us stopped to watch some of the laps. It was exciting to see how fast they go and how excited and passionate the fans were!
Continuing on, we arrived at the waterway that gave us a choice, 1) turn right for a Jamba Juice / Starbucks break (you can literally just leave your kayak by the docks and grab a drink and come back), or 2) turn left for Spinnaker Bay, where we were instructed the moon jellies lived. Even though I was tempted to get an iced caramel macchiato, we decided to visit Spinnaker Bay first to avoid the crowds that come later on.
So onwards we paddled. Tiring, but a fantastic upper body workout. Spinnaker Bay is filled with private docks so it’s important not to run into on push off of people’s boats. As we were paddling through, we were not seeing any moon jellies and 3/4 of the way through, were thinking of turning back. I had read some Yelp reviews that mention sometimes you don’t see any, or some other people claiming they had all died off.
It’s a good thing we pushed through and just decided to go to the very end, because that’s exactly where they were. Literally at the very end. I guess that makes sense as moon jellyfish can’t really swim. They just float along with the water currents.
Hundreds of them, of all sizes, so near the surface.
I did not want to disturb or potentially injure them by picking them up, so I just dipped my hand in the water to feel their body.
It was such a strange texture, yet exactly how I would have imagined a jelly fish to feel. It’s hard to describe. It’s what I would imagine a raindrop cake would feel (firm but squishy).
There are plenty of moon jellies in the world. When food (zooplankton) is scarce, they can shrink their bodies 90% to conserve energy and then redevelop to their normal size when food is available. Prey includes turtles, fish, and birds, many of which die every year after swallowing plastic that resembles these jellies (i.e. plastic bags and other forms of indigestible plastic).
Moon jellies are the primary food source for the 2,000 pound leather-back turtles. Since these jellies are 90+% water, these turtles need to eat a lot of jellies!
When we arrived at the cove, there were only three other people around us. As we were paddling back though, literally every minute, someone would be paddling towards the cove asking “are there jellyfish?”, “is this the way to the jellies?”, etc. I guess our decision to go jellies before drinks paid off as it would have been more crowded if we had delayed just a half hour.
On our way back, we headed towards what was labeled as “Wetlands” on the map, so even though we were so exhausted, I wanted to check out what it was. I made sure we had started as early as possible to 1) avoid the crowds, but 2) the map states ‘during high tide you can get close to wild birds’. I timed it so that one hour into our rental would be high tide.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the wetlands that I imagined with tall grass, lilies, birds flying overhead, and ducks waddling around. This “wetlands” was just a bunch of oil rigs and other industrial looking machines. We saw one pelican gliding across the water. On our way back, I spotted a seal diving in the waters! I didn’t even know they hung out here, but I guess they do. I only spotted it for a moment, though, so keep an eye out if you go.
Overall, a very fun trip and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun workout and the opportunity to see moon jellyfish in their natural environment.
Information Sources & Further Reading:
Have you seen a moon jellyfish before? If not, make a trip to Long Beach to experience them yourself. I rented from Kayak Rentals.
Happy Exploring! ♥