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Diver Name

Megumi Itoh

Occupation: Social Media Coordinator / Instructor / Illustrator
Location: Temple City, CA
Hometown: Temple City, CA

I got certified in summer of 2008. I started taking pictures underwater to help me remember what I saw on my dives so I can write them down in my dive log. Since then, I've upgraded my camera from a small point and shoot camera to a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lens. Some people want to see the big things like sharks and sea turtles. I delight in looking for small creatures underwater, especially nudibranchs. There are so much colors under the sea!

Trip Report - 3/8/20 Santa Cruz Island

March 16, 2020

The day started bright (well, it was still dark, but anyways) and early. The sun was just coming up when we left Ventura Harbor aboard the Peace Dive Boat. The crossing was calm, and we could tell we were in for a great day of diving at Santa Cruz Island.

Our first dive was at Scorpion Wall at the north east area of the island. Then we moved to Pink Ribbon Boilers for the second dive. After lunch, we wrapped up our dive day with a dive at Scorpion Rock.

Since I am the resident sea slug geek, I must talk about the nudibranchs (sea slugs) I saw on my dives. At all three sites, there were many Spanish shawls (Flabellinopsis iodinea). They are hard to miss with their vibrant purple body and bright orange cerata (rows of spiky appendages along the back). On all three dives, there were many mating pairs and also many individuals laying eggs on stalks of hydroids (it’s their favorite food). Another notable thing was that there were many large specimens. Usually they are around 2 to 3 inches, but there were several that were at least 4 inches. Just to wrap up on my sea slug report, I also saw a tiny McDoanld’s dorid (Limacia mcdonaldi) and a tiny Porter’s chromodorid (Felimare porterae).

One creature I must mention on this report is coffee bean cowrie or California trivia (Pseudopusula californiana). My dive buddy, Haruka, found a live one at Scorpion Rock. These marine snail are tiny and very well camouflaged so it’s not an easy thing to spot. It is nice to dive with our resident expert on marine life identification!

We saw many other marine life. There were the usual suspects: garibaldi, California sheephead, kelp bass, blacksmiths, and señoritas. we also spotted several young horn sharks and a few giant spined sea stars.

This was another successful OSDT dive trip on the Peace Dive Boat.

Mating pair of Spanish shawls

Mating pair of Spanish shawls

  • Spanish shawl laying eggs
  • A live coffee bean cowrie
  • Cute and tiny McDonald's dorid
  • Always bright (and also tiny) Porter's chromodorid

Trip Report: Catalina Vacation House Dive and Eco Adventure

March 1, 2020

Our President's Day weekend adventure started in the afternoon of February 15th. It was smooth sailing from San Pedro Harbor to Two Harbors, Catalina Island.

The condition during this trip was amazing - the sea was flat like glass, the visibility was amazing, and the water was warm. On Sunday, the freedivers reached their target depth or better, and then on Monday they surpassed their record from Sunday. While the freedivers were taking their class, the scuba divers went on beach dives. Since the conditions were so nice and the dive was mostly shallow, the dives were nearly an hour long (or longer for some of us...) and saw a variety of marine life. Three days on the Island seemed short, but we managed to go on a couple of hikes during our stay. We did one longer hike on Sunday afternoon to a spot where we can see both the frontside and backside of the Island. The view was breathtaking.

We had a lot of fun diving, hiking, and hanging out. Does this sound like a trip you would like to join? We will host another Two Harbors adventure on October 16 to 18! 

After breakfast on Sunday, we hiked up to a spot where we can look over the Isthmus Cove to check out the condition and plan our dive. As you can see, the water was like glass.

After breakfast on Sunday, we hiked up to a spot where we can look over the Isthmus Cove to check out the condition and plan our dive. As you can see, the water was like glass.

Begg Rock & San Nicolas Island

November 6, 2019

My second trip to Begg Rock and San Nicolas. This time aboard the Peace Dive Boat. Since the condition was nicer at San Nicolas than in the northern Channel Islands (and we didn't get kicked out by the military), we got to stay at San Nicolas on the second day!

OSDT Baja 1000 Expedition

July 12, 2019

We did it! We flew to Cabo San Lucas, where we boarded the Nautilus Undersea Hunter, and travelled a total distance of 1018 miles northward along the Pacific coast of Baja California and stopping to dive in many spots only a few have ever dived before! Gabe has named this trip OSDT Baja 1000 Expedition. The group of 19 OSDT divers became one of the few on this planet who ventured into the rarely visited waters of the Baja Pacific Coast. 

Before boarding our boat, we had a little side excursion. We got to snorkel with huge fever of mobula rays (we learned that a group of rays is not called a school, but a fever) just outside of the harbor. We could see them leaping out of the water and doing flips and sommersaults all around the boat. The first few we spotted were fevers of 100 or so, but then we encountered a fever of THOUSANDS of mobula rays. It was quite a sight. Initially, we were all thinking, "wow this is nice," but when we were on top of thousands of mobula rays we were all exclaiming, "Ooooooooo this is AMAZING!!!" 

There were so many breathtaking sights and awesome adventures that will remain in our memories forever. In the amazingly clear and blue waters at Rocas Alijos, we marveled at the unique formation and enjoyed swimming into the middle of huge school of Cortez Sea chub and red tail triggerfish. We also saw an abundance of usually rare clarion angelfish and the even more rare hybrid of clarion and king angelfish. There were scythe butterflyfish as well! Some of us have seen the few that have migrated to one dive site in Catalina Island. At San Benitos Island, we enjoyed the rock formations and deep pinnacles similar to those of San Miguel Island. It was lovely to see the luscious and colorful seaweed garden and southern palm kelp. This is where we saw some of the familiar marine life such as sheepheads and calico bass. What was different was that they were not afraid of divers and they let us get very close. We can’t forget our land tour on San Geromino Island. Everywhere we looked, there were brooding seagulls who did not seem particularly pleased about our visit. On the beach there were some sunbathing elephant seals who gave us a wondering puppy-dog eyes. We wrapped up the trip with dives at San Martin Island where we saw an abundance of Hopkin’s rose nudibranchs in luscious giant kelp forest. I can go on and on, but then this blog post will become a short story or a novel...

For me, the highlights were the dives at San Benitos and San Martin Islands. I found a couple of nudibranchs I have never seen before - Hermosita sangria and Ancula gibbosa (according to my app. I have been informed by a nudi expert online that it is more likely an Ancula pacifica). Also at San Benitos Islands, I got a couple of nice pictures of Polycera tricolor (I have seen this little guy once before, but I didn't get a good picture). On the last day, I saw a lot of Hopkin's rose nudibranchs at all of the dive sites. I was a happy camper.

Ancula gibbosa (or Ancula pacifica)

Ancula gibbosa (or Ancula pacifica)

  • California blue dorid - different color variation from the ones we see around the Channel Islands.
  • A live Solander's trivia. Lighter color shell and larger than California trivia
  • Hopkin's rose looking like a pink flame
  • Hermosita sangria - my first sighting of this nudibranch.
  • Polycera tricolor - such a funny looking little nudibranch

6/1 West Santa Cruz Island Trip Report

June 4, 2019

It was misty when we got to Ventura Harbor and boarded the Peace Dive Boat on Friday night. We were scheduled to depart at 3:30 am and head for the west end of Santa Cruz Island. I was fast asleep by the time the boat left the harbor, and didn’t wake up until we were almost at the island. It was overcast at the island, but that’s actually not a bad thing. When it’s overcast, it will be a calm day without wind.

On this trip, there were basic scuba diver class, advanced scuba diver class, hunters, photographers, divers who simply wanted to enjoy the beauty of the underwater world, and a non-diver who wanted a relaxing day out at sea. Once again, Captain Steven and Chartermaster Thomas selected three dive sites that matched the needs and interests of this diverse group.

The first dive was at Quail Rock, which is located a little east of the famed Painted Cave. We were anchored to the west of the rock, and from there it did not look like a quail or any bird… Apparently it looks like a quail from the other side. The reef was colorful with various sea anemones, nudibranchs, sea stars, sponges, sea cucumbers, scallops, and sea urchins. As we swam around the reef, we were greeted by a variety of fish – tiny blue banded gobies, which are more common in the southern Channel Islands, painted greenlings, ever present garibaldi, calico bass, California sheephead, etc.

We moved eastward to Arch Rock for the second dive. The stern anchor was set in the area with scattered rocks and boulders with sandy areas in between. Off from the starboard-bow area there was a large rock with swim throughs. Nice thing about rocky reef with sandy areas in between is that you see a wider variety of marine life. The rocky reef has the usual suspects: sea anemones, sea stars, sponges, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. On the sandy areas, there were some sea pansies , a spiny sand star, and a navanax. Sea pansy is not a plant, but an animal in the same phylum as the sea anemones and jellyfish. Navanax is a carnivorous sea slug with appetite for nudibranchs and sea anemones. You see them both on sandy bottoms and rocky reef, moving fast in search of food. 

For the last dive of the day, we traveled a little more eastward to Diablo Canyon. We were getting ready to go diving when someone spotted bald eagles on the island. As we watched, two bald eagles flew closer to the cove we were at, and we saw one of them swoop down to the water. It looked like the eagle caught a fish. After this little excitement we finished getting ready and jumped into the water. Here again, we saw many Spanish shawl nudibranchs and white sea cucumbers scattered all over the reef. Aside from the bright purple of the Spanish shawl, green sea anemones and brightly colored red gorgonian sea fans and little spots of orange cup corals added colors to the rocky reef.

After the dives it was time to eat lunch and compare notes with each other on what we saw underwater. When it was time for dessert, there was a surprise for me and another diver, Darlene. Our birthdays were a few days before this dive trip, and we were presented with a decedent chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream!

Close up of the Spanish shawl head. Do you see the tiny little eye near the base of the rhinophore? Nudibranchs do have eyes, but their eyes are embedded into the skin and don't

Close up of the Spanish shawl head. Do you see the tiny little eye near the base of the rhinophore? Nudibranchs do have eyes, but their eyes are embedded into the skin and don't "see" things like our eyes. Their eyes are light sensing organ which can detect light and dark, and when a shadow is passing over them.

  • Bright purple and orange Spanish shawl. This flamboyant nudibranch adds bright flash of color to Southern California's underwater scene.
  • Close-up of the arm tip of a giant spiny star. Happy to see the sea stars making a come back after being decimated by the sea star wasting disease.
  • Orange cup coral is the only
  • These guys would be so much easier to photograph if they stop insisting on perching themselves precariously on a hydroid or some other projcting tip of a rock.

Finally, a picture of Spanish Shawl Eggs

February 25, 2019

I finally got a picture of a Spanish Shawl laying eggs. It was perched at the tip of a hydroid and swaying to and fro in the surge as usual...

Too bad the Spanish shawl is cropped off, but it was swaying back and forth so much I was happy just to get a clear shot of the nudibranch and the eggs.

Too bad the Spanish shawl is cropped off, but it was swaying back and forth so much I was happy just to get a clear shot of the nudibranch and the eggs.

  • Same Spanish shawl, but I like the purple outline around the base of the cerata in this image.

Pictures from Solomon Islands Dive Expedition

February 15, 2019

My latest overseas dive trip was in the Solomon Islands. The water was very warm - mostly 84F - and the diving was amazing. I saw Pygmy seahorse for the first time and learned to identyfy more fish. After a 10-day dive trip in the Solomons, I went right back to dive at Anacapa (thank goodness for my drysuit) and saw an onespot fringehead. So many people say there is nothing to see when you dive in California, but that is so untrue. Most of the pictures here are from Califiornia dives. We may not have coral reef with colorful fish, but we have some brightly colored creatures.

Chromodoris Annae

Chromodoris Annae

  • Funeral dorid
  • Hypselodoris bullocki
  • OK... this is not a nudibranch, but I saw this persian rug flatworm for the first time.
  • Chromodoris Koi
  • I think this is THE TINIEST nudibranch I have seen. Probably less than 1cm long. I don't know how I spotted it.
  • Fine. This is also not a nudibranch, but it's still a mollusk!

Megumi's Underwater Photographs

January 6, 2014

Many people are surprised to see that there are so much color in the local California waters. We have some of the most flamboyant creatures around like the brightly colored Spanish Shawl!

  • Flabellinopsis Iodinea (Spanish Shawl)
at Santa Rosa Island
Yes, they are one of the most commonly seen nudibranch in So Cal, but they are so stunning!
  • Flabellinopsis Iodinea (Spanish Shawl)
at Farnsworth Bank
  • Simnia at Santa Cruz Island (9-14-14)
Look for them when you see red gorgonians!
  • another shot of the Yellowfin (or Orange) Fringehead
I saw an orange blob when I swam over a reef rock and knew I had to stop and look at it more carefully.
  • Who says barnacles are not pretty?
  • Blue ringed topsnail - looks like enamel jewelry
  • Chestnut cowry
  • Crevice kelpfish
  • Hermissenda opalescens another relatively common nudibranch, but very pretty
  • Austraeolis stearnsi
  • Live sand dollars on the sea floor
  • Okenia rosacea (Hopkin's rose) from Anacapa Island 7/11/15
  • Peltodoris Mullineri (Mulliner's dorid) at Santa Cruz Island 9/30/16
  • Zebra Goby - they are so skittish it's hard to take a good picture of them
  • Felimare californiensis var. A (California blue dorid ) with eggs from Santa Cruz Island 9/30/16
  • Jorunna pardus (leopard dorid) from Gull Island 5/12/18
  • Navanax inermis from Gull Island 5/12/18
  • Polycera tricolor (three colored nudibranch) from Gull Island 5/12/18
First time I've ever seen this one.
  • Teeny weeny Tritonia festiva (diamond back nudibranch). I was looking for simnia and found this little baby nudi instead
  • Berthella californica (California sidegill) from Santa Barbara Island 8/25-26/18
Not very flashy, but very elegant sea slug
  • Orange throated pike blenny - We made it to the Pelican Reserve on Nov 3, 2018 on the Explorer. I searched all over without luck. I led my group back to the boat and then decided to go down to the reef just under the boat for one last look. I was about to give up when I spotted this little guy poking his head out.
  • Hilton's aeolid (Phidiana hiltoni) is another one of those nudibranchs you sometimes see in the northern Channel Islands. Funny thing is, a lot of the times you don't see them at all, but other times they are all over the place!