Ocean Institute

Dana Point Harbor with the Ocean Institute to the far right. Photo by M.C.
Dana Point Harbor with the Ocean Institute to the far right. Photo by M.C.

I tend to write books (unpublished) set in Southern California with an ocean theme. From the Ocean Institute website to the museum in Dana Point I have found the institution a great resource of marine and maritime life information.

white sea star
White sea star. Photo by M.C.

The Ocean Institute has a limited amount of aquariums with local sea stars, jellyfish, stingrays and tiger sharks. It’s not a large facility, but the sea stars are beautiful and most I haven’t seen in the ocean, even though the collection of marine life is local. The tank of sea stars are for touching. The white sea star feels rough on the bumps and soft on the hair. Another sea star looks like a sun in a rainbow of colors—the one not for touching. In another building a worker feeds stingray. Where they keep most of the fish, jellyfish and small sharks there is a lab attached to dissect a small squid. (I don’t dissect life so I watched.)

Many elementary school-aged kids dissect the squids. The kids are smart and ask and answer many questions. I find listening to the kids invaluable because they ask with curious minds. The dissection reveals the sex of the squid and the ink. The pen that looks like a little piece of clear plastic is used to write with the squid ink.

The Pilgrim. Photo by M.C.
The Pilgrim. Photo by M.C.

There is also a tour of the Pilgrim, a tall ship, which only goes out once a year in August during the tall ship festival. I found the tour very helpful learning nautical terms. Once again a kid asks a question about pirates I’d never think to ask and it made the tour more interesting.

The staff is great at teaching classes and giving tours. They are eager to answer questions.

This past weekend and this weekend is the Festival of Whales in Dana Point—March 7-8 and 14-15. The institute will be focusing on gray whale migration.

If you live in Dana Point or the surrounding area it is worth getting an annual pass if you want a discount for whale watching and other boat tours. Senior membership is $30 and a family with two adults and their children is $75 annually. I don’t know how this whale watching tour compares to Captain Dave’s Whale Safari down the road. I would imagine the institute has an educational tour while at sea with dolphins and whales. I plan to take this tour in hopes to learn more about dolphins and whales for my future books. I will let you know about my experience.

Also with membership there are special speakers. Author Ari Friedlaender will be speaking about the ecosystem and the inhabitants of Antarctica on April 22, 2015. He has discovered much about whales using tag technology.

Admission for the institute is $6.50 for 13 years and up. Kids 3 to 12 years are $4.50. A tour of the Pilgrim is included.

Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr. Dana Point, CA 92629, Phone (949) 496-2274