The leopard sharks of La Jolla are a unique phenomenon in San Diego County since the sharks congregate in large numbers close to shore and even close to swimmers. This usually occurs during the warm summer months off the ritzy La Jolla coast of San Diego.
Where can you see leopard sharks in La Jolla?
Though leopard sharks are common in these waters, the mass gathering happens predominately at La Jolla Shores Beach, along the relatively calm and flat waters of the popular family beach. Specifically, the leopard sharks are swimming more often along the shallows of the southern part of La Jolla Shores. The beach area off of the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is commonly called “Shark City” and is three to ten feet deep, ideal for snorkeling from shore.
Why do the leopard sharks gather here?
Scientists speculate that the sharks are there to to help themselves gestate in the warm, calm water since females far outnumber males in the La Jolla waters.
Are leopard sharks dangerous?
The leopard sharks in La Jolla are generally harmless. They are gray and spotted and the sharks tend to grow up to seven feet in length although they are usually less than or around five feet. Don't worry, leopard sharks don't eat humans and in fact they are timid bottom feeders, with a small mouth suited for that food source. The sharks are are often scared of divers' bubbles and swimmers' movements, which makes their La Jolla gathering even more curious.
How do you find leopard sharks in La Jolla? Do you need to go under water?
The most common way is to either kayak or go snorkling off the La Jolla Shores beach and search for them in the shallow, calm waters. But you may not even have to go under water -- head to the waters towards the south end of the beach near the Beach & Tennis Club and wade into the shallow waters (make sure you shuffle your feet along the bottom to avoid sting rays). In about three feet of water, you just might find yourself surrounded by schools of sharks!
Another neat way to see them is to go scuba diving in La Jolla Cove. Though its a tough climb down and up the steep staircase with scuba gear on, you'll be rewarded by the chance to see leopard sharks at eye level and swim alongside them.
Want to learn more about leopard sharks?
If you're interested in learning more about the life and habitat of leopard sharks, head to Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, which has Leopard Sharks in its ElasmoBeach exhibit and discusses why sharks are important to the ocean's ecosystem and why the waters off of La Jolla are also important for the sharks. You can also see the Leopard Sharks in the massive aquarium get fed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Birch Aquarium is located at 2300 Expedition Way in La Jolla.
Updated by Gina Tarnacki on August 12, 2016.