Island Name

Anacapa Island

CONVENIENTLY LOCATED fourteen miles from Ventura harbor, the volcanic island of Anacapa has been miraculously eroded over the eons to create towering sea cliffs, sea caves, and natural bridges.  Setting sail from the dock, many of these phenomena stand out boldly against the horizon as a part of the island’s silhouette.  At the point closest to the mainland, Anacapa Island’s iconic 40 ft. high Arch Rock rises above the waves, heralding all adventurers as a gateway to the Northern Channel Islands.  It is underwater, however, where all other formations remain hidden to the naked eye, inviting the curiosity of aquatic explorers.

Appropriately dubbed East, West, and Middle Anacapa Islands, three closely grouped islets 14 miles south of Ventura harbor make up what is known as Anacapa Island.  With an area of about 1.1 mi.², the haven stretches five miles in length East to West and is the smallest of the Northern Channel Islands.  Precipitous cliffs line the shores of all three islets, with East and Middle being fairly level at the tops but the wider West islet reaching an altitude of 980 ft.

Once submerged, the scenescape transforms into rows of healthy kelp, swaying hypnotically with the tide, and stretches of densely populated reefs at sports diving depths of 10-100ft.  Beautiful, novice-level diving at this gateway island allows any and all individuals to enter the world of scuba with ease.

Because of the widely scattered reefs, and mini walls and overhangs that make up Anacapa’s varied underwater micro-ecosystems, Anacapa Island offers an abundance of marine life variety.  The vivid blue-purple and orange of Spanish shawl nudibranchs clings to reefs, colors popping out like mini pyrotechnics despite their seemingly unnoticeable size.

Being far from the murky beach dives of the mainland, kelpfish, ghost gobies, and blennies add further color to the backdrop of greens and blues.  Belonging to a mollusk typically associated with tropical waters, Southern California’s Chestnut Cowries, hidden among rocks, lure divers in with their tantalizing and exotic beauty.

Quality dive spots are selected after expert boat captains and charter masters peruse hundreds of locations.  Because the best and many of which are familiar only to a few in Southern California, Ocean Safari takes the details of this process with great care.  More often than not, the meticulous selection process results in an excursion that turns into a paradise photo album for photographers and a fish market for hunters.?

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • December 17
  • March 18
  • April 22
  • May 20
  • July 22
  • August 12
  • October 6
  • November 3
  • December 16
Island Name

Santa Cruz Island

TRAVELING WEST past Anacapa, the looming figure of Santa Cruz Island is unmistakable.  Unique to waters not only belonging to California, Santa Cruz has long established a global reputation for sea caves, coves, caverns, and sandy beaches and mountainous cliffs alike.  It may be surprising to some that it is also here where California offers its own version of the wall diving commonly practiced in tropical coral reefs.  There would be no fun in climbing the skill-ladder of East-to-West Northern Channel Islands progression if this island was missed.  Rock walls teeming with marine life, underwater archways, half-submerged caverns, camping on land… what’s not to love??

Legend has it that on the Portola expedition of 1769, a priest lost his cross-tipped staff on an island.  Having soon after recovered the relic, a Chumash Indian returned it to the priest, greatly impressing the Spaniards; so much so that the island of friendly Indians was thence named after the staff—being called “La Isle de Santa Cruz.”??

Today Santa Cruz Island is owned by both the National Park Service as well as the Nature Conservancy, and stands as the most topographically diverse of the eight Channel Islands.  Twenty miles southwest of Ventura and covering a vast area of 97 mi.² with the 2450some-foot high Devil’s Peak spiring high above, this small landmass also measures as the largest of the eight Channel Islands.  It is home to species totally unseen anywhere in the world, including the Island Scrub Jay and the Island Fox.  Of the 80 known species of whales and dolphins worldwide today, 28 have been spotted in Santa Cruz.

??In addition to boasting exclusively endemic flora and flauna, Cruz is also rich in cultural history, with over 10,000 years of American Indian habitation and 150 years of European exploration and ranching.  Being accessible only by boat, this remains one of the few Channel Islands where hiking is permitted.  Land excursions reveal to explorers around every corner rare species and historic remnants from the ranching era.??

Many sites both above and underwater are heavily protected for the sake of preserving cultural and natural heritage, thus allowing photographers fantastic opportunities offered at few other places.  Crisp beams of sunlight filtering through the undisturbed crystal-blue waters of caverns and the occasional bald eagle make this rare gem an irresistible photographic heaven.??

Fortunately, the needs of all specialties of divers are always met.  Because of protected areas, large game are constantly seen making rounds through hunting areas.  Fat calicos, sheep head, and halibut are all popular residents of this place.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • February 4
  • May 12
  • June 17
  • July 21
  • September 1
  • September 16
Island Name

Santa Rosa Island

WITH UNDULUATING SWELLS growing in size, Santa Rosa Island is typically a destination for more advanced diving than its adjacent cousins to its east side.  However, its variety and size of game proves tantalizing to seasoned hunters and photographers alike.??Equipped with a strong light, the carpet-like anemones and sunfish-strewn sea floor here reveals an Elysian beauty which contrasts starkly with that of the islands to Santa Rosa’s east.  Perhaps surprising to some, the vivid colors often seen in cold-water diving presents an entirely new underwater landscape to unsuspecting explorers.  One innocent stride here into refreshingly crisp waters could teleport you to a whole new world.

In the 1960s, the oldest human skeletal remains in the Americas, the Arlington Springs Man, was discovered here in Santa Rosa Island.  The fossils being carbon-dated to indicate 13,000-year old bones were not the only rarity exhibited in the rolling hills and deep canyons that is Santa Rosa.  As is the case with Santa Cruz, this area was also once home to the ancient endemic species, the Pygmy Mammoth.  Measuring a mere four to six-feet tall, these miniature mammoths once roamed the grasslands of America and stretched as far to the West as San Miguel Island.  But these were simply the discoveries made by archaeologists on land.  Given the remote underwater diving, who knows if they’ll be the first to uncover another ancient discovery under the sea

Forty-six miles progressing westward from Ventura is number three of the four northern islands and the second largest of all eight at 83 mi.².  With geography and marine life more akin to its close cousin, San Miguel, Rosa features large schools of rockfish, Lingcod, and Wolf eels.  Furthermore, it is in these far-removed if but slightly more advanced dive destinations where lobsters and scallops grow largest and most plentiful.  Talcott shoals, infamous for its superb lobster diving, is matched by few other places in Southern California.  Rock walls and points here frequented by strong currents host dozens upon dozens of scallops the size of small dinner plates.

Bee Rock and various pinnacles on the south east side of the island, rising to a casual-yet-exciting average of 50 ft., offer diving surprisingly dissimilar to that of Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  Although the Channel Islands are grouped within the same archipelago, those who visit island understand that even just the Northern ones present exclusive varieties of scenes and marine life unique in themselves.  As such, Santa Rosa marks the beginning of California’s true semi-cold water diving.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • March 10
  • December 8
Island Name

San Miguel Island

LONG SOUGHT-OUT by recreational divers and hardcore explorers alike, San Miguel Island sits alone in the open ocean, visited almost daily by only the strongest of pelicans and wildest of frothing white waters.  Being the western-most Channel Island, this bastion of the archipelago is incessantly weathered by severe climate and surrounded by cold and nutrient-rich water.  Needless to say, San Miguel is far from a walk in the park.

Yet missing this essential component to Californian diving would mean only experiencing a glimpse at what the Golden State has to offer offshores.  Beneath the six-foot swells, through surge that could rock a baby elephant to sleep, lies a world of color and shapes in which unseen animals swim, crawl, slither, and even (yes) fly.  Underneath the simple recreational diver is also, in you, a thirsty explorer.  And here, it only gets better the deeper you dive.

Just short of 15 mi.² San Miguel measures the third smallest of the eight Channel Islands.  Approximately 64 mi. from Ventura harbor, the eight-mile long strip of land was designated an archaeological district in the National Register of Historic Places, having both rich natural and historic diversity.  However, due to consistently severe weather and submerged rocks littering the 28-mile coastline, approaching the island becomes a mariner’s nightmare only the bravest and most skilled sailors can manage.

Excavations uncovered on the island of San Miguel has indicated that the island was first settled by human populations some 12,000 years ago.  The Paleo-Indians that inhabited this brutal outlier of the Pacific Ocean’s more tumultuous side are the very same Chumash American Indians that also inhabited Santa Cruz and other Channel Islands.  It was clear to archaeologists that said people were capable of navigating sea routes, using tomols (or large canooes) to cross from the mainland.  Besides the indigenous, the first European explorer to step foot on San Miguel Island, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, did so in 1542 and thereat died and was buried.  Although currently the island is uninhabited by humans, ranchers beginning in 1850 did raise sheep here for nearly a century.

With the grace of the Pacific allowing, the most opportune San Miguel diving is when Ocean Safari breaks through the swells to the Northwestern side of the Island.  Here, spiring pinnacles and curiously formed rocks create ethereal scenes so far removed from human civilization that diving feels akin to deep-space exploration.  Indeed, that which dominates the water in these parts is certainly not part of our world.  At one of the Westernmost points in San Miguel is Point Benet, beginning of the Great White Red Triangle.

For the first time in recorded history since 1912, a “loomerie” (breeding colony) of the Californian Common Murre was discovered have to return to offshore islet, Prince Island, of San Miguel.  This small, football-sized endemic species of bird is known to dive out of the sky and headfirst into the water, sometimes “flying” 80 feet or deeper in search of prey—not unlike the seasoned hunters that accompany us in search of Vermillion rock fish.

The Common Murre was not the first in recent history to have been known to return to populate this island.  In the 1960s, the Northern Fur Seal successfully repopulated this area.  Today, their colony here is estimated at a healthy 10,000 seals.  Dolphins, porpoises, gray, killer, and (largest of all) blue whales are also commonly spotted on the outskirts.

Those animals that you can hunt, on the other hand, have only grown exponentially in size since Santa Rosa Island.  Lingcods and Vermillion more than half a grown man’s wingspan are ubiquitous.  Scallops the size of dinner plates and 10lb lobsters that one would never see in the fish market are also just as common.  Clearly it’s not just a paradise for hunters and foodies.

Marine life is without a doubt not only abundant, but unique in the world.  History here is rich and plentiful.  And despite the seemingly bleak landscape of the island, this destination remains a vestige of more ancient worlds before our time.  To bridge this gap in time, the trip to the island of San Miguel has been a voyage made not-so-distant by the chartered expertise of select boats; and a rough journey cushioned by gourmet chefs, Jacuzzis, and merry company.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • June 23
  • August 4
  • October 14
Island Name

Santa Barbara Island

A PLAYGROUND where divers, snorkelers, and sea lions come together in a dazzling display of bubble storms and aquatic acrobatics is the best description for a typical day at Santa Barbara Island.  Home to one of the largest sea lion and seabird colonies in Southern California, this tiny and remote citadel of pinnipeds is sometimes sadly overlooked as a diving destination.

Playful denizens of dive spot Sea Lion Rookery watch eagerly from nearby rocks as divers ready their equipment for entrance.  In synch with the first giant stride, they leap into the water to swim out for a friendly greeting.  With movements surpassing even the agility of Olympic swimmers, these underwater trapeze artists like to charge full speed towards you, at the very last possible second veering off while blowing bubbles, curiously imitating divers.

A small triangle amidst the Southern Californian waters, Santa Barbara is without a doubt an integral component to the diving experience.  Crystal blue waters revealing even deeper beauty below, along with the companionship of friendly sea-lion barks nearby, make this retreat an unforgettable experience.

Even tinier than Anacapa, the underwater volcanic activity-formed Island of Santa Barbara measures a mere 1.6 mi.².  Still, its 634 ft. twin peaks remain visible on a clear day 44 miles away from the mainland at San Pedro.  Perhaps above the surface of the ocean, size matters, but underwater the depths reveal a stark beauty you’d be sad to underestimate the island for.

Possessing six marine terraces, the geology here is indicative of relatively recent formation in comparison with its sisters in the rest of the Channel Islands Archipelago.  Because of the exciting rock formations here that differ from that of the Northern Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Island takes diving Channel Islands geology to a different level—or shall we say, different levels.  Shag Rock and Sutil Island are only a couple of myriad spots where diving Southern California can be seen from a truly unique angle, one that is only experienced through a sea lion’s eyes.

Since its introduction to the Western world through years of ranching, Santa Barbara Island has made rapid progress in ecological recovery.  Home to other endemic species native only to the Channel Islands, its appearance from a passing dive boat is now marked by bright orange-yellow bouquets and the blue-gray of exclusive species “Santa Barbara live-forevers” among other vivid wildlife adding to the island’s palette.  Although a small number exotic species have dwindled into extinction, the ecosystem both above and below sea level here presents a huge variety comparable to the other Channel Islands, yet in itself a one-of-a-kind destination for boat dives.

Kelp forest diving as dense in some areas as that of San Clemente diving gives Californian scuba divers a glide-through experience so tranquil one feels as if they were flying through a scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Good practice for neutral buoyancy, you’d still have to be cautious of the vivid cinema-like scenery surrounding lest you avoid being tangled in the friendly, swaying kelp.  It is in aquatic forests like these where the sun-dappled mazes remind divers and photographers of the fun in a simple Southern Californian swim.

A home to photographers, explorers, and hunters alike, Santa Barbara offers a glimpse into Southern California diving otherwise unnoticed in the other Channel Islands.  Here sea lions almost know how to pose for photographers; they certainly hunt alongside divers as well; but best of all, they, along with the rest of the island, connect people to the world of diving.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • April 14
  • June 2
  • July 15
  • August 19
  • September 9
  • November 24
Island Name

Catalina Island

QUAINT SEA BREEZE-scented shopping areas and residential ocean views aside, Catalina’s tourism consists mainly of scuba and snorkeling, attracting close to one million visitors annually.  The well-known Casino Point Dive Park offers a colorful and easy-but-relaxing dive while allowing divers to tour the rich culture in its main city, Avalon, by rented bikes or golf carts.  Take a boat to Catalina, on the other hand, and the scuba diving transforms entirely.

Whether it’s the fast-paced Ship Rock, romantic mini-getaway Lover’s Cove, or the exhilarating Farnsworth Bank on the backside of the Island, every dive feels like a mini vacation.  Unbeknownst to many, the hundreds of dive spots hosted by the island of Catalina often surprises Californian divers when it breaks from the inaccurate stereotype of being an over-dived island.  Underestimate this island may imply missing the opportunity of your lifetime.?

Similar to Anacapa as a gateway island to Southern California scuba diving, Santa Catalina can reward with temperatures as high as low 70s in the summer and visibility as clear as 80 to 100 feet on some winter days.  With an area of just about 75 mi.², the third largest Channel Island measures 22 miles long and 8 miles wide.  Officially a part of Los Angeles County, the 2010 census reports Catalina to be populated by some four thousand residents, with 90% of that number residing in the humble city of Avalon—neighbors only to easy tides and the cries of seagulls.

Originally settled as early as 7000 B.C. by indigenous people of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribes, the island of Catalina has witnessed a multitude of cultures in evolving over millennia.  As with many other American Indians on the West Coast, the indigenous here met their decline with the colonization of California by the Spanish.  The island transgressed from paleo-Indian years and Spanish inhabitants to the Californian Gold Rush and Wrigley ownership (yes the chewing gum).  As such, Catalina is as much an integral part of the Golden State as any other, not only in world-famous Californian diving but vast amounts of culture.

Considering the entire island of Catalina, diving here is unlike other Channel Islands overall scuba experience in that it offers a plethora of different kinds of diving.  Whether it’s beginner dive spots, shipwrecks, shore-diving, or thick kelp forests, Catalina has virtually anything one could look for.  Catalina backside diving contrasts starkly with its frontside as if it resided on the opposite side of the Pacific.

??Marine life is similarly varied.  Although the bloated size of conservation-protected and out-of-reach Calico bass and sheep head at Casino Point swim smugly past hunters, large game is no anomaly elsewhere on the island.  Halibut the size of teenagers inch their way through sandy shores and Honda Civic-sized Giant Black Sea Bass are about as common as pigeons in Central Park.  Lobsters, large pelagic, mouth-watering yellowtail, and elegant leopard sharks patrol the waters like hipsters patrol Sunset Blvd. 

Channel Island diving already being one of the safest in the world, you also can’t beat diving at Catalina with a hyperbaric chamber just minutes away on the island.  Both safe and blood-pumpingly thrilling in its variation, a lifetime of exploration at Catalina still wouldn’t yield all surprises it has to offer.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • January 21
  • February 25
  • March 31
  • April 28
  • May 27
  • July 1
  • July 29
  • August 26
  • September 23
  • September 30
  • October 21
  • November 18
Island Name

San Clemente Island

ACQUIRED IN 1934 by the U.S. Navy, San Clemente is now the last ship-to-shore live firing ranges.  In passing through or under waters here, mini explosions afar and rumbling engines overhead are sometimes heard, announcing the presence of battleships and fighter jets in the distance.

What lies beneath the surface of the water here at this island, however, is truly worth humoring the Navy and their occasional bombs, ships, and training practices.  The leeward side of Clemente offers the visibility of crisp winter nights of the North (consistently throughout the year and more dependably so than any other Channel Island), only instead of a starry night sky, divers bear witness to reefs of purple coral and shipwrecks congested with giant lobster and game to spear fish.  Swimming through vibrant sunlit kelp forests in such a serene place makes San Clemente Island diving an adventure the Channel Island wouldn’t be an archipelago without.

Though the average water temperature is not unlike that of most other Channel Islands at the mid-60s range, the clarity of the water typically does differ.  It is no wonder that many divers are attracted to this island not only for spear-fishing, but the scenery.  This being from easy pinnacles like Truth Rock (rising from 45 ft. to an easygoing 15) to a handful of shipwrecks like the USS Gregory.

Kelp forests here are infamous even in Southern California; yes, more regularly so than any other island.  Diving through dense beds of kelp often miles wide creates a vague nostalgia for Midsummer Nights Dream, with sprite-like nurse sharks popping up around every corner, mischievous Garibaldi behind every leaf—dappled with just enough sunlight to hypnotize you when the only sound you hear is your regulator.   With rarely-wavering visibility averages of 60-90 ft.,  San Clemente Island diving is the closest one can get to tropical diving in Southern California.

Sixty-three miles South of Long Beach harbor, the 57 mi.²-large island of he Clemente marks the Southermost island of the Channel Island archipelago.  Due to U.S. Navy ownership, it is uninhabited by Civilians.  However, the 2010 census estimates approximately 300 military personnel to occupy the island at any one time.

At the Eastern, leeward, side of San Clemente rests five-mile long Pyramid Cove.  Offering suitable protection from currents and strong winds, this is one of few dive sites where advanced divers and beginners alike can come together to thoroughly enjoy calming yet thrilling scuba.  In Southern California, luxury

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • July 7-8
  • October 27-28
Island Name

San Nicolas Island

Located nearly 75 miles from Ventura harbor, the island of San Nicolas measures a modest 22.75 mi.² in area, making it the smallest of the eight channel islands next to Anacapa and Santa Barbara island.  However, those who have dove Santa Barbara should be well aware that, whereas islands are involved, landmass is no indication of depth of beauty.

Indeed, to underestimate this seemingly humble island would be a grave mistake.  Known to some as the San Miguel of the Southern Channel Islands, diving San Nicolas island proves both severely challenging and ineffably rewarding with every excursion one takes off the boat.

Until 1835, the indigenous Nicoleñotribe inhabited the island of San Nicolas.  Being an island, even today, reputed for the immense difficulty of access, only the bravest and most talented of seafarers were capable of navigating to it.  Incidentally, theNicoleño—an Uto-Aztecan people closely related to those indigenous of the other nearby Channel Islands—possessed an unmatched mastery of nautical expertise that allowed them such access.

Suffering from historic fates similar to that of its archipelagic sisters, the island of San Nicolas—though populously colonized—did thereat host frequent whalers and ranchers here and there.  Having made an ecological recovery since incipient Western conquest, it now presides within U.S. Navy jurisdiction and is sometimes used for munitions testing, simultaneously serving as a training facility.

Being the furthest out from the mainland of all eight Channel Islands, it is little wonder that the seldom-dived island of San Nicolas is also the most mysterious, lending itself a mystical and otherworldly power.  Most dives here range between a photogenic 20 feet and comfortably deep 80 feet of water, with marine life for the capturing available in dozens at every level.
It’s guaranteed on nearly every dive to see a colorful diversity of marine life all within the same dive:  Beds of Gorgonia, reefs of giant kelp extending as far as the eye can see, strawberry anemones, lobster, halibut, snapping shrimp, and horn sharks, just to name a few.  Whereas East End hosts the best grounds (or waters) for challenging-yet-rewarding game, big surge and strong current at The Boiler offers unparalleled underwater photography.

Chances to dive at San Nicolas are slim compared to many other channel islands.  Weather may not always permit and the Navy’s prerogatives typically trumps that of recreation divers’.  However, the excitement of visiting such a remote place always resides in the uncertainty of the conditions.  Being a much riskier gamble than, say, Catalina, San Nicolas can also be vastly more rewarding.  For the adventurers willing to take a chance, dive in and see how lucky you can get.

 

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • August 24-25
Island Name

Farnsworth Bank

KNOWN LOCALLY also as “Farnsworth Wall,” and “Farnsworth Pinnacles,” Farnsworth bank sits conveniently on the backside of Catalina, roughly two miles from the coast.  While it is undoubtedly a mecca for advanced Southern Californian divers, being frequented by strong currents and great depths, breathtaking drop offs and consistently clear blue water make it a mandatory dive for all divers of Southern California and those visiting.

Featuring vast expanses of reefs with purple hydrocoral, lobster, lingcod, nudibranchs, and torpedo rays among other vibrant wildlife and pelagics, this bank begins at a seemingly harmless 54 feet of water.  But with abrupt tidal changes and unexpected conditions, it also stretches down to an egregious 250 feet measuring to the muddy bottom from which it protrudes.

In the past, Farnsworth bank was declared an ecological reserve.  However, though it is currently a State Marine conservation area, divers may also take marine invertebrates, finfish, and marine aquatic plants as long as it adheres to Fish and Game Regulations.

With a plethora of invertebrates offered aside from Farnsworth bank’s star-attraction, the Purple Hydrocoral, high visibility and immense variety of life here make the location a heaven for underwater photographers and recreational divers.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

Island Name

Cortes Bank

TITANS STIR 1000 fathoms (approx. 1 mi.) below a deceptively calm surface.  The Cthulhu calls somewhere in the depths and seconds later monstrous 70-foot swells break at the crest, only to come crashing down with unmeasurable fury.  Or so one would think upon visiting the part of Southern Californian waters which rests above the underwater islands known as Tanner and Cortes Bank.

Oceanside surfer Harrison Ealey hit a wave at Bishop Rock in the summer of 1961, thereby becoming one of the very first people to surf the monstrous waves of Cortes and Tanner bank.  Since its inception with the world of aquatic recreation, Cortes bank has seen the world’s greatest surfers and divers.  Billabong Odyssey, Guinness World Records, Swell, are just a few of the many names associated with the average 70-90 ft.-plus waves here.

At about 80 miles from San Pedro, the 23-mile long and 7-mile wide reef of Cortes bank consists of sandstone and basalts and rises from the ocean floor 1000 fathoms deep (nearly 1 mile).  Notable dive spot, Bishop Rock, on the other hand, rises to about three to six feet from the surface and can sometimes be glimpsed in the troughs of passing swells; though frequently hidden and thus a treacherous hazard to seafarers.

Among the other Channel Islands home to indigenous before Western colonization, it is said that Cortes and Tanner Bank were quite likely inhabited by American Indians during the last age 10,000 ago, in which said banks would have risen above sea level.

Like the lost kingdom of Atlantis, the now-sunken islands of Cortes and Tanner reveal underwater beauties that would have otherwise gone unnoticed before the revelations of underwater breathing and daredevil recreation.  In the midst of pink-purple coralline algae, the banks now hide unsuspecting 11 to 12 pound lobsters, bat rays, vivid purple hydrocorals of a deep electric hue, among myriad marine life that 

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • July 7-8
  • October 27-28
Island Name

Tanner Bank

TITANS STIR 1000 fathoms (approx. 1 mi.) below a deceptively calm surface.  The Cthulhu calls somewhere in the depths and seconds later monstrous 70-foot swells break at the crest, only to come crashing down with unmeasurable fury.  Or so one would think upon visiting the part of Southern Californian waters which rests above the underwater islands known as Tanner and Cortes Bank.

Oceanside surfer Harrison Ealey hit a wave at Bishop Rock in the summer of 1961, thereby becoming one of the very first people to surf the monstrous waves of Cortes and Tanner bank.  Since its inception with the world of aquatic recreation, Cortes bank has seen the world’s greatest surfers and divers.  Billabong Odyssey, Guinness World Records, Swell, are just a few of the many names associated with the average 70-90 ft.-plus waves here.

At about 80 miles from San Pedro, the 23-mile long and 7-mile wide reef of Cortes bank consists of sandstone and basalts and rises from the ocean floor 1000 fathoms deep (nearly 1 mile).  Notable dive spot, Bishop Rock, on the other hand, rises to about three to six feet from the surface and can sometimes be glimpsed in the troughs of passing swells; though frequently hidden and thus a treacherous hazard to seafarers.

Among the other Channel Islands home to indigenous before Western colonization, it is said that Cortes and Tanner Bank were quite likely inhabited by American Indians during the last age 10,000 ago, in which said banks would have risen above sea level.

Like the lost kingdom of Atlantis, the now-sunken islands of Cortes and Tanner reveal underwater beauties that would have otherwise gone unnoticed before the revelations of underwater breathing and daredevil recreation.  In the midst of pink-purple coralline algae, the banks now hide unsuspecting 11 to 12 pound lobsters, bat rays, vivid purple hydrocorals of a deep electric hue, among myriad marine life that 

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

Island Name

Begg Rock

FATHOMS BELOW sea level begins the rising pinnacles, shooting skywards to fall short some 70-100 ft. of the surface, thus constituting the aquatic kingdom that is solely Begg Rock’s wild domain.  Even upon entering the water, those hazy towers form nothing but haunting mirages.  Yet, upon closer examination, after bubbles clear from in front of one’s mask, the silhouettes fade away to betray the apex of Southern Californian diving—an adventurer’s playground.

Begg Rock pokes out 15 feet from the surface of the cold and hauntingly beautiful waters here around San Nicolas.  Exotic and hugely famous in the diving community for its opportunity for photography and hunting, the tiny island offers a wealth of marine wonders few other places can compete with.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • August 24-25
Island Name

Pelican Reserve

THE DIMINISHING NUMBER of brown pelicans in the early 1970s alarmed biologist to a point when they claimed the Northeast side of West Anacapa Island a protected reserve for pelicans.  As a result, diving this area is much like diving it 40 some years ago.  The reserve is closed to civilians for ten months out of the year, leaving only the months of November and December open to divers.  The rare occasion of being allowed to dive Pelican Reserve make it a treat to dive the secluded reserve with sheer volcanic rock cliffs on one side and the deep azure Pacific on the other.  With depths ranging from 15 to 70 feet and always above-average visibility, the Pelican Reserve has always remained a must-dive for the latter two months of the year.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • November 3
Island Name

Oil Rigs

The human-constructed parallel of nature’s iceberg:  An ostensibly unremarkable heap of lifeless metal above the water, and approaching 300 feet of pillars below congested with heavy traffic of marine life forms.

Your typical trip here—the real-life version of a storybook adventure (courtesy of Ocean Safari and affiliated charter boats):  Rig’s permission granted, boat tethered, an approach not unlike entering the cave of a dragon, rig spitting fire from the rig’s roof, and you’re in.

Foreshadowing terrifying depths below, waters of a deep azure beckon to the bravery of expert and novice divers alike.  Graciously, the ocean surprises even before the descent—one dunk of your head in the water for a preview and all fear evaporates, giving way to wonderment.  The oil rigs’ pillars reach far below beyond the eye can see.  Gazing upon them mirrors the awe of a child, neck-arched and mouth-gaping at the foot of a skyscraper extending up into the heavens.

Only instead of panels upon panels of glasswork, the steel here supports king-sized beds of strawberry anemone, with acorn barnacles and sponges filter feeding on strong open-ocean currents.  When they hit, it simply becomes a matter of maneuvering betwixt steel beams, dodging in between fish of extraordinary shapes and colors.

Twenty-three oil rigs scattered between Oceanside and Santa Barbara, all of which are female-named (e.g., Eva, Grace, Harmony) constitute the closest Southern California recreational diving can get to reaching unknown depths.  Yet, somewhere in the difficult balance of neutral buoyancy, divers also find the balance between nature and artifice.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

  • June 10
  • August 11
Island Name

Shipwrecks: Olympic, Avalon, Palawan, Wreck Avenger

PURSUING EXHILARATING dives through underwater historical monuments becomes a walk in the park with all shipwrecks conveniently located in the Southern California Channel Islands Archipelago.  Divers pursuing their advanced certification and upper-level courses have the option of taking a glimpse into culture and history by plunging into Californian waters in our backyard and swimming around ancient shipwrecks.

The wreck of the Olympic II, in all her 258-foot glory, dates back to 1877 and rests peacefully three and a half miles from Angeles Gate Lighthouse.  An even larger and more recent wreck by the name of Avalon lies close to Palos Verdes at a thrilling depth of 75 feet.  Its sinking in a furious 1964 storm caused the steel Passenger steam ship to pummel down towards the rocky ocean floor; and yet, entirely intact.

When reefs ran short in the 1970s, The Palawan was sunk to a staggering depth of 110 feet off the coast of Redondo beach to be used as an artificial reef.  The ship still sleeps in the same position, having accumulated over 40 years of abundant marine life.  At a shocking length of 441 feet, divers often visit this sleeping giant while experiencing the exciting sensation of mounting pressure at great depths.

Ships are not the only wrecks which sit on the ocean floor in California.  In the early 50s, a World War 2 Navy torpedo bomber crashed another plane, consequently tumbling down to the front side of East Anacapa, coming to rest in a cozy spot 40 feet from a nearby reef and 120 feet down.  Although not an easy dive, this sixty-some-year-old plane sight is frequented by many a fish and diver.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

Island Name

Big Sur

DEPARTING FROM THE FISH TOWN of Morro Bay with Truth Aquatics, braving an expedition to Big Sur Coast is more of setting foot (or fin) on an adventure packed into one day.  After arriving at the destination, sights like the 80-foot McWay Falls and Partington Cove make the trip an unexpected treasure others would never have known about resting in the heart of Southern California.

 

Indeed, there is nothing else Southern California diving—including the Channel Islands—which can compare to waking up in the morning with a pristine view of the Santa Lucia Mountains, spotted with giant coastal Redwoods and pines along the mountain ridge.  This, shortly followed with a plunge into blue waters containing wolf eels and other rare Californian marine life make the Big Sur adventure one-of-a-kind even in California.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)

Island Name

Begg Rock/San Nicolas/Talcot Shoal

Begg Rock

FATHOMS BELOW sea level begins the rising pinnacles, shooting skywards to fall short some 70-100 ft. of the surface, thus constituting the aquatic kingdom that is solely Begg Rock’s wild domain.  Even upon entering the water, those hazy towers form nothing but haunting mirages.  Yet, upon closer examination, after bubbles clear from in front of one’s mask, the silhouettes fade away to betray the apex of Southern Californian diving—an adventurer’s playground.

Begg Rock pokes out 15 feet from the surface of the cold and hauntingly beautiful waters here around San Nicolas.  Exotic and hugely famous in the diving community for its opportunity for photography and hunting, the tiny island offers a wealth of marine wonders few other places can compete with.

 

San Nicolas

Located nearly 75 miles from Ventura harbor, the island of San Nicolas measures a modest 22.75 mi.² in area, making it the smallest of the eight channel islands next to Anacapa and Santa Barbara island.  However, those who have dove Santa Barbara should be well aware that, whereas islands are involved, landmass is no indication of depth of beauty.

Indeed, to underestimate this seemingly humble island would be a grave mistake.  Known to some as the San Miguel of the Southern Channel Islands, diving San Nicolas island proves both severely challenging and ineffably rewarding with every excursion one takes off the boat.

Until 1835, the indigenous Nicoleñotribe inhabited the island of San Nicolas.  Being an island, even today, reputed for the immense difficulty of access, only the bravest and most talented of seafarers were capable of navigating to it.  Incidentally, theNicoleño—an Uto-Aztecan people closely related to those indigenous of the other nearby Channel Islands—possessed an unmatched mastery of nautical expertise that allowed them such access.

Suffering from historic fates similar to that of its archipelagic sisters, the island of San Nicolas—though populously colonized—did thereat host frequent whalers and ranchers here and there.  Having made an ecological recovery since incipient Western conquest, it now presides within U.S. Navy jurisdiction and is sometimes used for munitions testing, simultaneously serving as a training facility.

Being the furthest out from the mainland of all eight Channel Islands, it is little wonder that the seldom-dived island of San Nicolas is also the most mysterious, lending itself a mystical and otherworldly power.  Most dives here range between a photogenic 20 feet and comfortably deep 80 feet of water, with marine life for the capturing available in dozens at every level.
It’s guaranteed on nearly every dive to see a colorful diversity of marine life all within the same dive:  Beds of Gorgonia, reefs of giant kelp extending as far as the eye can see, strawberry anemones, lobster, halibut, snapping shrimp, and horn sharks, just to name a few.  Whereas East End hosts the best grounds (or waters) for challenging-yet-rewarding game, big surge and strong current at The Boiler offers unparalleled underwater photography.

Chances to dive at San Nicolas are slim compared to many other channel islands.  Weather may not always permit and the Navy’s prerogatives typically trumps that of recreation divers’.  However, the excitement of visiting such a remote place always resides in the uncertainty of the conditions.  Being a much riskier gamble than, say, Catalina, San Nicolas can also be vastly more rewarding.  For the adventurers willing to take a chance, dive in and see how lucky you can get.

 
 EXPAND TEXT

 

RECENT PHOTOS (SEE MORE)

UPCOMING TRIPS (SEE MORE)