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Diver Name

Sara Hall

Occupation: Writer
Location: Alhambra
Hometown: Williams, Oregon

I've always been drawn to adventure, especially in nature. I grew up in a small town where my backyard was a dense forest. The forest seemed endless, and it fascinated me. I missed it like crazy when I moved to Southern California. Then I discovered the forest is still right in my backyard, in the giant kelp of the Channel Islands. I've never been diving outside the California coastline, and I know someday I will. But for now, there is plenty of adventure to be had right here.  

Current at Santa Rosa Island

May 27, 2015

“The current is pretty strong, but you should be able to make it,” James, a Peace crew Divemaster, reported back after jumping into the water at our first dive site. We were outside Nunya Reef at Santa Rosa Island. 

Thomas explained that we would make our giant stride off the bow, stepping as close to the anchor line as possible, and swim for the line. If we couldn’t immediately grab hold, we would be swept toward the back of the boat where we would have to abort the dive and board the swim step. I had no practice swimming in current, but I was determined to get to that anchor line.

Once I dropped into the water, I felt the current rip at me immediately. Visibility was low but I could see the anchor line and I kicked for it. Still, it remained just out of my reach and I was exerting too much energy, burning too much air. The idea of aborting the dive was crushing, I was so close. In one last-ditch effort, I kicked harder and threw my arms out in front of me. Megumi, one of my assistant instructors, was hanging on the line and my hands grazed her fin. I grabbed hold. I was worried that I’d yank her right off the line, but hopeful that she might be able to pull me to it.

She turned her head and grabbed my arm, guiding me as I continued to kick and finally my fingers wrapped around the rope. Once I was secured on the line I laughed into my regulator. It was so fun to hang on and let the current blow my body out behind me like a windsock. As I relaxed, my breathing slowed, and I descended the line after Megumi. 

Down at the bottom, the current was calmer and we had a chance to explore the reef. The visibility was about fifteen feet. Once I let go of the anchor line I saw that my entire group had made it! We were seventy feet deep and soon it was time to ascend back up the line. I was a lot more comfortable with the pull of the current on my way up, enjoying the power of it, it was an exciting thing to behold.

There is nothing like a hot meal to recharge a group of divers. Courtesy of Peace crew chef Steve, the Ocean Safari Dive Team enjoyed a fresh breakfast as we made our way to Santa Cruz Island for our next dive.

I plunged into the water after Megumi and met up with my buddy and the rest of my group at fifteen feet. At a depth of fifty feet, we began exploring the underwater rock formations. I watched Thomas shine his light into one of the crevices, but I couldn’t see what he was looking at. He grabbed my arm and pulled me closer, and I followed the direction of his light as I swam inside. I thought that he might be showing me a lobster or eel, but when I got in closer I came face to face with a beautiful horn shark (Heterodontus francisci). I’d never seen a shark outside of an aquarium before, it was enthralling.

Back on the boat once again, we enjoyed some of the luxuries only found on the Peace. Divers warm up in-between dives by pouring hot water from the boats jacuzzi down their wetsuits! Our captain dropped anchor at Bowen Point, on Santa Cruz island for our third dive. I kept my buddy close and followed Thomas, but soon we realized that our group was missing two divers. We searched for them briefly underwater before ascending to the surface. My buddy and I took a compass heading before descending and heading back to the boat.

Despite getting separated underwater, the missing divers navigated their way back and we all rendezvoused on the boat before our captain pulled up the anchor a third time and moved us to Pink Ribbon Boilers, our last dive site of the day, on Santa Cruz island. Before jumping off the boat, my buddy and I took a compass heading and then performed our direct descent. We explored through the kelp and saw California Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus), urchins (Centrostephanus coronatus, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, Strongylocentrotus franciscanus), sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus), sea hares (Aplysia californica), schools of blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis), and sand dollars (Echinarachnius parma)

As part of Ocean Safari’s NAUI Advanced Open Water Certification course, my instructors guided me through challenging conditions and helped me to progress my level of skill and competence under water. Back on board I logged my dives and relaxed in the hot tub as the Peace made its way back to the harbor, taking the Ocean Safari Dive Team back home. 

Photo by Gabriel Lu

Photo by Gabriel Lu

Biodiversity at Anacapa Island

May 21, 2015

The second before a diver steps off the boat is often filled with excitement and overwhelming anticipation. With each subsequent dive, we gain a greater understanding of the marine life that captivates us. On March 28th the Ocean Safari Dive Team hosted a trip to Anacapa island aboard the Explorer. The brilliant crimson sea fan captured in this photograph demonstrates the remarkable beauty that awaits divers just under the surface. This elegant red gorgonian (Leptogorgia chilensis) is just one of many filter feeding invertebrates that flourish among the rocks and lush kelp forest. The Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) hover just beyond the divers reach, seemingly suspended in the water as a massive bait ball of smelt swirl around the tall sweeping strands of kelp. These dazzling photographs feed my love for diving. I can’t wait for my next boat trip with Ocean Safari.

Photo by Chris Shi

Photo by Chris Shi

  • Photo by Chris Shi

Beauty at Catalina Island

May 21, 2015

On March 14, renowned underwater photographer Chris Shi, joined an Ocean Safari dive trip aboard the Cee Ray to Bird Rock, located on the front side of Catalina Island. In addition to his SCUBA gear, he brought something very special, his camera. Chris dove with an Olympus E-PL2 equipped with a 8mm fisheye lens. He used a single Sea & Sea YS-250 strobe and cone for external lighting. To achieve these remarkable photographs, Chris fine-tuned his camera settings to F13, 1/125, ISO200. With the help of his equipment as well as several years of experience, Chris Shi was able to capture a wide spectrum of color, painting a striking representation of the underwater world in which he was submersed. Vivid red, rich gold, vibrant green, and deep blue give his photographs an alluring quality and stunning clarity, displaying the brilliance of this dynamic dive site.

Photo by Chris Shi

Photo by Chris Shi

  • Photo by Chris Shi
  • Photo by Chris Shi
  • Photo by Chris Shi

Dive Blog February 21st, 2015. Anacapa Island

May 21, 2015

“Go, go, go, go!” Crew members called out as the boat erupted into a flurry of motion. Several divers hit the water in quick succession, creating a staccato rhythm as they stepped off the boat into the current.

The first dive of the morning was a semi-drift dive. After extensive planning, Ocean Safari teamed up with the Explorer to offer this unique semi-drift experience for divers. But, as a novice diver, I didn’t have the skill for this kind of dive yet. I sat perched on the Explorer’s upper deck, my favorite place on the ship, as the action unfolded below me.

I watched in awe as the current slowed, leaving the freshly departed divers bobbing in the water next to the boat instead of drifting. Suddenly, the divers didn’t need to hurry off the boat. The sense of urgency was gone, replaced by a surge of excitement. It was a beautiful day at Anacapa Island and the conditions were exceptional for diving.

The first group of divers climbed back onto the boat and exhilaration hit me like a bolt of electricity. I was ravenous to get in the water. My first dive of the morning was a skin dive lead by Thomas and Norbert. Kelp blanketed the surface thickly, creating the odd sensation of crawling on the water as if it were a solid mass.

This was my first free dive. I struggled to descend against the buoyancy of my wetsuit, flapping my fins helplessly against the surface. Thomas and Norbert made it look so easy! I wanted to be able to do that. What I enjoyed most about the skin dive was that it gave me a little taste of what I could expect once I got back on the boat and donned my dive gear. From the surface of the water, I could see forty feet down to the bottom. I’d never experienced visibility like that.

After gearing up, I hit the water a second time and felt adrenaline rush through me. In seconds, I was surrounded by marine life including urchins, starfish, sea slugs, and countless creatures I couldn’t name. The kelp forest was encompassing, surrounding us like long fingers reaching up from the ocean floor.

As a group, we demonstrated a few skills for Thomas and Norbert including mask flooding and neutral buoyancy. Then came my favorite part, exploring through the lush kelp forest. I quickly became enthralled by the underwater world. There was so much to see!

Lunch was an interesting experience, as it seemed just as exciting for some of us. We had many hungry divers. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back into the water. There was so much wonder and discovery at my fingertips. I wanted to explore. I wanted to see more.

The last dive of the day didn’t disappoint, offering the same remarkable visibility as the previous. I’d never been on a dive where I could see so clearly, so vividly. It seemed endless. It blew me away.

My first trip with Ocean Safari, also my first dive since certification yielded tons of new friends and adventures. The Explorer is an excellent boat with a professional and hospitable crew. I can only describe the day as phenomenal. I enjoyed every minute of it. Ocean Safari is not your average dive shop; they rose above my expectations, striving to offer unique and one-of-a-kind experiences, giving divers the best that California has to offer. The beauty I saw underwater was enough to leave me breathless. Never hold your breath! Oh, right…

Look for me on your next dive trip, lets buddy up!

Photo by Chris Shi

Photo by Chris Shi