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The Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary
Kelp forest rock-bottom and shallow sand-bottom communities make up the predominant nearshore habitats. Luxuriant forest-like growth of giant kelp occurs in shallow water throughout the sanctuary. The most dense and extensive formations occur along protected island shores and provide rich habitat for a variety of invertebrate fauna. These species include sponge, kelp crab, spiny lobster, octopus and squid, sea stars and sea urchins. Common fish of the kelp forest include garibaldi, opal eye, kelp bass, California sheepshead, sea perch and rockfish. Common animal species in sand habitat include sea pansies, polychaetes, sand dollars, several species of rays, sand dabs and turbot.
At least 27 species of whales and dolphins have been sighted in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary and about 18 species are seen regularly and are considered "residents." Little is known about the areas
of concentration, life history or behavior of the resident populations. The sanctuary lies on the migratory pathway of the California gray whale
and other large baleen and toothed whales. Gray whales with calves have been observed in the nearshore kelp beds of the sanctuary. The gigantic
blue whales have also been sighted in sanctuary waters in recent summers. more...
Santa Barbara: a captivating blend of colorful history, distinctive architecture and the legendary Southern California lifestyle. Known all over the world for its exceptional beauty, Santa Barbara County boasts crystal-clear air, stunning scenery and glistening, palm-lined beaches.
Sophisticated Santa Barbara
There is something for everyone in Santa Barbara County. History whispers from the old buildings. Natural beauty beams from the varied landscape
of mountains, valleys, coastal foothills, and the sea. With its fascinating history, unique architecture, and extraordinary setting, the city of Santa
Barbara alone offers an extensive array of sights to see and things to do: from beaches to missions, museums to mountains, wine country to whale
watching, the possibilities are endless. More
Diving in the kelp
The thick kelp beds that surround much of the Channel Islands are what gives this underwater world its incredible sensation of being in an underwater rainforest. These plants grow fast to heights of more than 120 feet. Giant kelp helps support an aquatic ecosystem that provides domicile for over more than 800 species of marine life.
Giant Kelp near Anacapa Island, Annie Crawley
Be cautious and remember that there is no need to get entangled in kelp. Just keep
your dive gear streamlined and stay close to your buddy who can free you as you swim. The kelp provides natural channels to swim through
and it cuts and breaks easily in case you do get caught up.
The Channel Islands, California, USA
Comprised of five beautiful and uninhabited islands in a chain of eight just off the coast of Southern California, the Channel Islands National Park is home to a wide variety of nationally and internationally significant natural resources.
This month we take you diving in the waters of the Northern Channel Islands consisting of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Island. The Channel Islands are preserved in the same rugged condition as they have been for thousands of years. Development has been very limited. The dive sites are reached by dive boats from beautiful Santa Barbara harbor. The small city of Santa Barbara is an exquisite and charming base, full of beautiful beaches, wonderful restaurants, historic missions, great shopping opportunities and the home of Jean Michel Cousteau. Jacques Cousteau(and the rest of us) considered these islands the best temperate climate diving in the world. The islands average a distance of about 20-26 miles from shore. Lush kelp forests are everywhere, sea lions cavort with divers, and an abundant variety of sea life is there for you to enjoy.
The Northern Channel Islands
There are numerous dive sites to choose from. The captain of the boat will
make the decision where to go depending on tide, weather etc. Below we highlight a few sites on Anacapa Island. Please see
the Pices Diving and Snorkeling Guide to the Channel Islands for detailed descriptions of all the sites in this region.
Cat Rock: located on the seaward side of the West Anacapa Island. The spot is characterized by the large rocks extending away from the
island above the surface. The area is surrounded by large kelp beds of varying depths. Abalone and game fish can be found as well
as the occasional scallop.
Coral Reef: located near the end of the West Anacapa Island on the seaward side. This reef is a huge island of life in the sand. It starts
in 30 feet on the island side and drops to 80 feet on the opposite side. This is a favorite dive site for many boat captain when the current
Goldfish bowl: located near the west end of the island is one of the most frequented spots on the island. It is usually calm and visibility
can be exceptional. While not being known for it's hunting, Goldfish Bowl is very scenic with rocky reefs, kelp and blue-green water that
invite the diver to explore.
Cathedral Cove: located on the mainland side of the East Anacapa Island. This are is an ecological reserve so hunting is forbidden. Because
of the lack of human predator the area remains pristine and a profusion of large game fish can be seen.
Arch rock: located at the extreme end of East Anacapa Island. It is within the ecological reserve and is exposed to the elements.
The terrain drops off sharply here and strong currents sweep the area. As a result the visibility can get up to 100 feet. Black sea bass have
been seen here recently.
Dive Global highly recommends Truth Aquatics, moored in romantic Santa Barbara harbor. The company has won numerous awards for its excellent service. The well-staffed crew is there to serve you, even on a tight budget. A three-day excursion, including all meals, snacks, beverages, air fills, and fun, runs less than $400.
There are 3 ways in which you can buy passage on their boats:
1) Charter a whole boat
2) Charter 1/2 of a boat (split charters).
3) Buy individual spots
All multi-day trips include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, fresh fruit, cookies, candy, hot and cold drinks (they do not provide alcoholic
beverages, BYOB). For an additional fee E-6 film processing is available for groups with advanced notification. If you would like to include
an Island Landing as part of your trip they can arrange that as well. Please review their site for more detailed charter information. Once you have decided on a trip, it is advisable to arrive in Santa Barbara
and stay on board the night before the trip as the boat leaves at 4am in the morning! You may board anytime after 8 PM. Make sure to print
your name on the boat manifest legibly and sign an Assumption of Risk. No roll call is taken before departure and it is everyone's responsibility
to be onboard.
may be noted for its sunshine but do not be fooled, it does get cool, especially after the sun sets, we are after all, in the desert. Regardless
of the time of the year, bring at least a jacket. Visibility ranges from 30 feet to over 100 depending on time of year, weather, and currents.
Water temperature is cool but not bitter cold and ranges from 55 in winter to 70 in summer, averaging about 65 degrees. A 1/4 inch wetsuit
(or a drysuit) is required most of the time. Many of the hard-core Channel Island divers are switching to drysuits but these are not necessary.
By Air: Los Angeles airport (LAX) is the major hub for international airlines. From LAX you can get several flights daily to Santa Barbara airport.
Many cities in the US serve Santa Barbara directly as well.
By car: rent a car at LAX and drive to Ventura or Santa Barbara. It is a leisurely 1 1/2 drive along beautiful coastal Hwy 1 or slightly
faster inland Hwy 101.
Read more about diving in the Channel Islands...
Diving and Snorkeling Guide to the Channel Islands, Including Catalina, Santa Barbara, Anacapa and more, Pisces Book Editors | Buy
Diving offshore California, Darren & Stacy Douglas |Buy