As you drive up to the gates of the Marine Mammal Center, you may hear the squawks and bellows of its noisier patients. Set up in 1975 to rescue and care for injured marine mammals, the Center has cared for many patients, but most have been in the pinniped family, including sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals. Weak, injured, and sick animals are taken to the facility to mend and recover their strength before being released back into the wild. Visitors can view the mostly-volunteer staff feeding and caring for the animals in the rescue pens, and get an earful of the amazing noises that make up sea lion conversation. You'll enjoy your visit a lot more if you manage to hook up with a docent who can fill you in on what makes these animals special. Otherwise, it's hard to get more than a long-distance peek; caretakers have discovered that these animals' chances of survival are much higher if humans are kept at a distance. Formal tours occur monthly; check the web site for the schedule. Sometimes, the volunteers conduct informal introductions to the animals, but you'll have to take your chances on landing one of those.