How to Explore Tide Pools (Responsibly)

Everyday the ocean reveals a bit of itself as the tide recedes and in areas of shallow shoreline the trapped water becomes a tide pool that can contain an amazing variety of marine life including seaweeds, coral, mussels, crabs, sea slugs, sea stars and many more.
Exploring these tide pools is hobby for many people but the rock formations or coral reefs are fragile ecosystems that can be easily damaged by careless walking or human intrusion.
Here are some responsible tips for maximizing your fun while exploring tide pools.
Read the Tide Tables
Before exploring a known tide pool check the tide tables to determine when low tide is and plan to arrive at least an hour before. I use Surfline because I also check for swell and direction in case there is nearby surf.
Find Secret Tide Pools
Our friend Gregory Han shared his secret to finding unexplored tide pools as he uses Google maps to scan the coast line and look for low lying coastal areas with beach access. The shallow water is typically indicated by light blue water and a tide pool will have the dark outline of a reef or rock feature surrounded by the lighter water.
Tread Lightly
Wear secure shoes with tough outsoles (not flip-flops or sandals). Walk gently and take care not to step on any wildlife.
Sun Protection
Wear sun protection and apply sunscreen on the beach so as not to drip any into the tide pools.
Know What You’re Looking At
Consider getting a wildlife guidebook. Dive shops have laminated guidebooks that will help you identify the marine life.
Closer Look
Bring a magnifying glass so you can get an even closer look and you’ll be amazed at what you see.
Look but Don’t Touch
Most wildlife organizations will tell you to leave tide pools undisturbed which means don’t touch anything including all plants and animals. This is a great rule and we understand that no one would endorse touching marine life but if you do decide to break this rule make sure you touch the animals as gently as possible and if you can’t easily remove a starfish from it’s rock then leave it alone. Don’t keep wildlife outside of the water for more than a few seconds and return it gently to the exact spot where you found it.
Keep an Eye Open
Don’t forget the ocean and keep an eye out for large waves that can sweep over a tide pool and knock you over.
No Trash
The same rules in camping apply to tide pools. Leave nature untouched and never leave anything behind.
Make sure you also take a moment to enjoy being where you are. The smells and sounds can be just as amazing as the sights.
photo: courtesy of Gregory Han

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