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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Santa Catalina Island: Under Water and Above the Trees

Santa Catalina island is just a short one-hour ferry-ride from Los Angeles and thus it is a very popular destination for vacations and day trips. My reason for going there was scuba diving. Santa Catalina is part of the Channel Islands which are well known for their Kelp Forests and wildlife.

In Avalon, the largest city on the island, an Underwater Dive Park was established in 1964 to protect the flora and fauna as well as facilitate diving. And so a large stair was recently built which makes this one of the easiest shore dive destinations I've seen so far.

Right after descending I spotted the Kelp Forest, which looked amazing, especially swimming in between the huge kelps was very interesting.
There were also many fish around. The Garibaldi, the official state fish of California, was omnipresent.
We then continued along the shore towards deeper waters and were visited by two huge Sea Bass, each almost two meters in size!
After 52 minutes the first dive was over and we rested for another 52 minutes before starting the second one.

On the second dive we visited some of the wrecks which can be found on the ocean floor. We were diving along, when I suddenly spotted something shark shaped, which I hadn't encountered before. It had a spike or horn in front of its fins and was laying very still on the ocean floor. I later learned that this was a Horn Shark, one of the few Sharks who can breathe while laying motionless on the ocean bottom, and thus it is resting during the day.
Our dive guide also spotted an Octopus, which was hiding inside one of the wrecks.
After 52 minutes it was time to leave the water again. But I wasn't finished for the day yet.

At 8pm we met again for a night dive. That was a very special experience, because with all the kelp it was sometimes difficult to see the other diver's lights! But fortunately, I always found my group again. ;)
At night we spotted dozens of Lobsters who were scurrying about and I also spotted a small snail with it's housing, which I haven't seen so often before.
Unfortunately, we were joined by an inexperienced diver on this night dive and so it ended after only 36 minutes...

Coming to Santa Catalina Island was well worth it. A fantastic experience in very easy diving conditions. I can highly recommend this site to any diver, who isn't afraid of coldish waters (the thermocline dropped to 17° Celsius, the main temperature was 24° Celsius).

The next morning I went for a short Hike looking for a couple of Caches, where I spotted the lines of the Zipline Ecotour. This looked very intriguing to me and so I quickly returned to my room, packed my bags and booked the next tour :).
They had five lines with a maximum length of 335 meters! It was very cool to glide over this interesting landscape and more than 90 meters over the trees. However, after bungy jumping this Spring, the thrill factor of Ziplining didn't really register ;). Nevertheless, it was a cool thing to do.

While exploring Santa Catalina I also discovered signs of the economic downturn, where even well known figures needed to look for new jobs ;)
More pictures can be found in my California web album.

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