|"What kind of name is that for a dive site?" exclaimed the diver aboard the dive charter boat. The dive briefing had barely begun when after the name of the dive site, Garbage Cove, had been announced, a diver interrupted with the question. And you might be thinking the same question. It has nothing to do with trash under or on the water.
Early in the 20th century the east end of East Anacapa Island became the construction site of a much-needed lighthouse and related facilities. During and after its construction, excess building materials needed disposal. Enter the National Park System. Franklin D. Roosevelt established Anacapa Island, along with Santa Barbara Island, as the Channel Islands National Monument, the precursor to the now five-island Channel Islands National Park. More facilities needed to be built and more construction trash appeared. Although limited, it was decided that the best way to dispose of the trash was to shove it into a natural depression in the island just above a beautiful cove on the mainland side of east end of East Anacapa Island. None of the debris ended up in the water, nor can any even be seen from sea level but the name stuck--Garbage Cove.
The entire mainland side of Anacapa's three islands (East, Middle, and West) has become a remarkable place to dive. A patchwork of marine preserves were recently knitted together into a solid stretch several miles long that encompasses numerous kelp forests, shallow and deep reefs, sand flats and beautiful coves; tiny Garbage Cove being one of them.
Like many of the coves in this extensive preserve it is bordered and often filled with thick lush kelp. There is no shortage of life on the reefs and in the kelp of Garbage Cove. Especially entertaining are the many large male sheephead. Rub or bang rocks together and they will zoom right on in--close. Sometimes you feel you might even be attacked! Their thick bodies, bulbous head, and protruding teeth can be intimidating. But have fun. These encounters make for great photos. With the large male's white chins but black heads, you will find your photo exposures to be challenging. Do this: First, get low and shoot up. You want to bring in the green or blue water background to give a background for the black head to contrast against. Then expose for the chin so that it is not blown out. Get close! This should not be a problem with these aggressive oafs.
There a lot of other reef fish here among the kelp, all of exceptional size including big calicos, kelpfish, and an occasional black sea bass. Look into the rock crevices for some big lobster and an occasional abalone. And the fish are friendly. The size of these animals and their friendliness is no doubt a result of this cove's status as a marine preserve.
But the main event here is the caves. Cut deep into the island are a pair of water-filled caverns that beg to be explored. The water is shallow and open to the surface at all times. The branch to the left penetrates completely through the point allowing in a beautiful dance of light. And if that is not enough, there is a side branch that is narrower, but still open, that loops back around to the main branch. While it can be easily explored just by snorkeling, I recommend scuba so you can take in the full display of light and see up close and personal the animals on the bottom. Normally green anemones are white in here as in the darkness the symbiotic algae cannot survive. There is also a large amount of lobster out and about. Tip: Because the water in here is only 10-15 feet deep and can be surgy, add a bit more lead to stabilize your posture underwater.
So if you head off to Anacapa Island and end up at a dive site known as Garbage Cove, know that your dive will not be "trashed" but rather one of wonder.
Special thanks to Spectre dive charter for assistance in creating this article.
Location: Mainland side of East Anacapa Island east of Cathedral Cove. GPS: N34°01.046', W119°21.831'.
Access: Boat only. Kayaks fun in cave.
Depths: 10 to 50 feet.
Skill level: All, but beware of thick kelp (Know your safety procedures when dealing with kelp).
Visibility: Generally good but can vary due to plankton blooms.
Snorkeling: Very good.
Photography: Big sheephead are fun subjects. Try wide-angle in the available light of the caves.
Hunting: None. Marine preserve.
Hazards: Thick kelp, surge in shallows.
Suggested Dive Charter Boats Frequently Serving This Area:
Spectre - (866) 225-3483
Peace - (805) 650-DIVE
Truth/Conception/Vision - (805) 962-1127
Raptor - (805) 650-7700
or see the California Scuba Calendar section of this issue for trips to Anacapa Island