by Dean and Nancy Hoch

It just doesn't get much better than an afternoon discovering the amazing things that are being done to save orphaned sea lions in Southern California -- then also go on to discover the wonders of just a few of the many tide pools in and round lovely Laguna Beach just south of Los Angeles.

That's what the two of us had the fun of doing, along with our nine-year-old granddaughter, Alison, and what a day we had devoting ourselves to environmental and wildlife/marine life.

Our host was Cheri Ikerd, owner and operator of OC Wildlife & Beach Tours (the OC stands for Orange County). This sprightly, athletic-looking young lady picked us up at our hotel in her van and took us on one of her unforgettable half-day tours.

First stop was the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, inland from Laguna Beach and a place that for more than 40 years has devoted itself primarily to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing hundreds of orphaned, sick or injured marine animals.

Here we learned the difference between California Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals, and Pacific Harbor seals- all friendly mammals that are cared for here. Over 70 volunteers help the small paid staff with this remarkable and much-needed effort.

Another mission of the Center is to increase public awareness of the marine environment through education and research - and we must say, by all appearances, these devoted people are doing a magnificent job as they pursue this vitally important work.

2013 has been the center's busiest year in its 42-year history. Over 300 California sea lions have been rescued with more coming every day. Normally, 150-200 are treated in an entire year's time.

Be sure to check out the website at