child of the Channel Islands and San Gabriel Mountains
Santa Barbara Trip Report - 9/21/19
September 22, 2019
Standing roughly 33 nautical miles away from the mainland as one of the smallest Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Island is a tiny, isolated piece of land poking out from the wraparound blue. Often a target for unforgiving currents and swell, it’s not every day when you’re greeted with near-perfect conditions at her frequently sought-after reefs. Mother ocean was probably feeling a bit generous this day, as we were fortunate enough to be one of the few lucky divers.
Our first two dives took place at Sutil Island, a massive rock laid southwest of Santa Barbara Island. Standing at over 300ft tall, Sutil could be spotted more than 30 minutes away from arrival. Its tall cliffs provided the perfect backdrop to our healthy, kelp-filled site and clear blue waters. With basically no current, 68°F waters, and 60ft visibility, diving here was easy and enjoyable for first-timers and experienced divers alike. We were happy to see that healthy and plentiful kelp dominated the site. The occasional token sea lion was spotted every so often, blowing bubbles and somewhat teasing their much slower and less agile human friends.
Our third and last dive site of the day was Sea Lion Rookery, an epicenter along the coast of SBI for hundreds of playful pinnipeds that you’re guaranteed to spot while diving. Although hunters and collectors couldn’t take anything in this marine protected area, the flourishing sea life was a reminder to enjoy all the healthy diversity Santa Barbara Island has to offer. Huge bull sheepheads patrolled the reef and scallops could be spotted on practically every rocky surface. The highlight of the site were the underwater arches that that only the most adventurous would dare to enter. It is critical that conditions have to be perfect in order to successfully swim through the tunnels; dangers of being sucked up and onto the rocks are high when the surge is strong. Holes in the tunnel ceilings that led to the surface created skylights: soft beams of sunshine that illuminated a warm glow into the contrasting dark cave. These beautiful arches were also home to thousands of lobsters and various other marine life. Sea lions danced and played in these tunnels with complete and utter fluidity, displaying that they were completely in their element.
After everyone finished their last dive at 1 pm, it was time for the 5.5-hour boat ride back to the mainland. Once we arrived in Ventura Harbor and started to load our dive gear back onto the truck, the sky was transformed into a bright orange and pink painting before our eyes, concluding another unforgettable day at Santa Barbara Island.