Every year, thousands of leopard sharks swarm the La Jolla waters in the largest annual leopard shark aggregation in the world. And, while the word ‘shark’ may elicit some form of panic, there’s no need worry. In fact, leopard sharks are known as the “friendly sharks” of the ocean. Their calm demeanor and beautiful spotted backs make them an intriguing site to witness whether you’re swimming, snorkeling, kayaking or diving.

Biologists say that roughly 97% of these leopard sharks that come to La Jolla annually are female, and many of them are pregnant. They choose the calm, shallow and warm waters of La Jolla Shores to incubate and stay protected. July through September are the peak months to see these bottom dwellers, and below are three way to get up close and somewhat personal to these gentle and stunning creatures:

Kayak + Snorkel

One great way to encounter these leopard sharks is by getting out in the water in a non-motorized vessel, such as a kayak or standup paddleboard. La Jolla-based adventure and apparel company Everyday California, for instance, is famous for its 90-minute kayak tours that give paddlers a first-hand look at leopard sharks – which, by the way, measure between four and seven feet long on average. The tour guides take paddlers to where the leopard sharks reside for an above-water view, all while giving history behind their migration and the importance of the ecological reserve in the area. For those who are a bit more thrill seeking, the company offers a snorkeling tour where paddlers can jump in to get up close and personal with the leopard sharks, as well as other wildlife, such as garibaldi, shovelnose guitarfish and sea lions. These tours are open to anyone six years and older and rates start at $40.

Stand in Shallow Water

Leopard sharks are so prevalent this time of year, you may not even have to get a workout/sweat in, while interacting with them. By walking into shallow water, you are likely to have an encounter. If you have some goggles or even a snorkel, you may get a better look at their unique coloring and size. Bring an underwater camera because you’ll want to get a couple photos to remember the experience!

Find a Good Viewing Spot

If you don’t feel like getting wet (or too close), there are other ways to ensure you don’t miss out on this unique experience. The La Jolla Pier is not only a beautiful place to watch the sunset, it’s also a place you can get a peek at the leopard sharks from above – high above! Also, just by standing in the sand near the water you may catch a glimpse. Worst case scenario, just have your more adventurous friend take a photo and see them that way!

These are just a few of the ways to experience leopard shark season in La Jolla. Since you’re likely flocking to the beach this time of year to soak up some sun anyways, why not add this to your bucket list?