Sea Lion Cove

A Glimpse of the California Coast

Modeled after Point Lobos, California, Sea Lion Cove is one of the most unique and beautiful new sea lion exhibits in the country. You’ll be immediately transported to the California Coast with the sound of crashing waves, salty sea air, barking sea lions, harbor seals and beautiful brown pelicans. Gaze in wonder at these amazing animals from four unique vantage points. At the “nose-to-nose” viewing window, get so close you could seemingly reach out and touch them. Watch them porpoise and play from above at the “cliff overlook” or take in an animal presentation by their dedicated keepers at “the shore” while children build sand castles in the sand play area. Or better yet, follow the coastal path down to “Pacific Point View” — the 35-ft underwater viewing window where you can watch these amazing creatures glide gracefully beneath the water, performing playful acrobatics through the underwater archway.

Showing the Sea Lions Some Cove

Since 1956, sea lions have been among the most popular of exhibit animals at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Our 2007 master plan called for a new, modern sea lion exhibit, one that would lead guests to appreciate the wonder of marine mammals and the California Coast, to learn and explore the natural history of this amazing area, and to appreciate the importance of conserving this priceless resource. On August 27, 2012, after 11 months of construction, Fresno Chaffee Zoo opened Sea Lion Cove.

Fresno Chaffee Zoo asked three critical questions in the planning of Sea Lion Cove:

  1. Does it provide excellent animal care?
  2. Does it provide an exceptional guest experience?
  3. Will it be a great place to work?

Since Sea Lion Cove’s grand opening in 2012, it has exceeded our goals in ways in which we couldn’t have imagined.

An Award-Winning Exhibit

On September 16, 2014, Fresno Chaffee Zoo was presented with the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums Top Honor Exhibit Award for Sea Lion Cove. This is the highest honor the AZA gives to zoo and aquarium exhibits. This award is chosen by a committee of zoo professionals by AZA zoos and aquariums across the nation and recognizes excellence in the area of live animal display and exhibit design. Other zoos and aquariums competing for the same award included the San Diego Zoo, the Smithsonian and Sea World. Scott Barton, Fresno Chaffee Zoo CEO and Zoo Director said:

“We are excited and honored to have Sea Lion Cove receive the AZA 2014 Exhibit Award. After watching our guests’ reaction to Sea Lion Cove, we knew it was a success for Fresno County, but to get national recognition from our colleagues reaffirms that, with the great support from our community, Fresno is creating one of the best zoos in the country. And we have our community to thank; without Measure Z, Sea Lion Cove would not have been possible.”

Sea Lion Cove is not only a wonderful exhibit for the animals, but it’s also a great example of the Zoo’s eco-friendly goals. The green features of Sea Lion Cove include solar panels, water conserving irrigation and an efficient life support filtration system which includes a constructed wetlands area. The water from the exhibit pool passes through the wetlands for bio-filtration before returning to the life support system.