Catalina’s Best Beginner Dives

The majority of divers certified in Southern California get their first taste of the ocean’s underwater world at Catalina Island. Catalina is one of the most heavily dived islands in the world, with good reason. There are over 100 excellent dive sites all around the island, many of them world class. Walls, kelp forests, big animals, macro dives — all make up the collage available to the diver. All skill levels will be pleased here, from novice to the expert. But more than anything else, […]

Catalina’s Best Advanced Dive Sites

Divers often gain their first certification dives at Catalina leading many to think that this place is for beginners only. But there are also advanced sites that will please even seasoned divers. An “advanced” diver is not always one with that stamp on their certification card. For definition here we will qualify “advanced” as a diver with a minimum of 50 dives (preferably 100) in a variety of situations including strong current, deep (100+ feet) and with proper equipment and knowledge to use it. FARNSWORTH […]

Catalina’s Favorite Macro Animals

Catalina Island has some great little critters to please your eye and fill the viewfinder of your camera. They are bright and colorful set against the muted blue, greens and ambers of the kelp forest. BLUE-BANDED GOBY There are places at Catalina where the rocks are freckled with tens of thousands of this brightly colored little fish. Although their range extends from the Sea of Cortez up through the Northern Channel Islands, they are the most concentrated at Catalina (a more extended common name is […]

Garibaldi Reef

How dive sites get their names is frequently a mystery to me. Take Catalina Island. I have always wondered, and someday will research, where Farnsworth Bank, Toyon Bay, and Cherry Cove got their names. Other dive site names are quite obvious—Casino Point, Ship Rock, or Bird Rock. Most dive site names gain their names from either surface features or from individuals (although sometimes lost in historical obscurity). Rarely are dive sites named for underwater features and animals. Around Catalina Island there are some exceptions—Eel Cove, […]

Sea Fan Grotto

Oh, how I love gorgonians! Kim—wife, buddy and underwater model—knows that if I see a large stand of beautiful gorgonian sea fan, I just have to take a photo with her in the background. Red and gold are common and make fantastic images against a blue or green water background. Add kelp and you have the makings of an award winning image. Lots of dive sites around the Channel Islands and along the coast have nice stands of this California type of soft coral, but […]

Buttonshell Beach

Sometimes the best place to find a new and fun dive spot is when that location is wedged between two popular and frequently visited dive sites. The “in between” location often gets completely overlooked! The shallow reefs to the east of Buttonshell beach is just such a location. To the northwest is Long Point with its exciting deep and shallow reefs off the point and famous moray eels inside the cove. Eastward are the reefs at Hen Rock with many small caves, lobsters, and deeper […]

Bird Rock

No doubt about it, I am still learning in my diving ventures, still exploring. A recent dive on Bird Rock, Catalina Island, drove that home once again. I must have dived this site a hundred times over the last three decades and thought I knew it inside and out, but I was in for a re-education. The dive boat Aquatica anchored in a typical spot near the rocky hump and me and my buddy dressed in. When it was our turn to enter the water, […]

Blue Cavern Point

While bureaucrats argue where the future of marine preserves are in Southern California, there are a few jewels of preserves here and there that have existed for many years as shining examples of just how important these areas can be. The crown jewel at Catalina Island has to be the preserve at Blue Cavern Point. Sheephead and calico bass are fat and sassy, approaching divers without fear. I especially like the big male sheephead with their bulbous heads and pronounced jaw and big teeth. Huge […]

Catalina’s Best Fish Dives

As a child one of my earliest memories was begging my Uncle Lloyd to buy me a fish tank so that I could “see underwater.” He relented, acquiring for me a handful for goldfish in a big jar with I proceeded to stare at for hours on end. Give me a bunch of fish in front of my face and I am still satisfied for hours. And easy-to-get-to Catalina Island is one of the best places to do just that. When I am ready to […]

Farnsworth’s Yellow Wall

Go to Jerusalem and you’ll want to see the Wailing Wall. Go to China and you’ll want to see the Great Wall. Go to Tavenui, Fiji, and you’ll want to see the White Wall. And when you go to Farnsworth Bank on Catalina’s backside, you’ll want to see the Yellow Wall. The Yellow Wall is a section of the reef at Farnsworth that’s covered with small, yellow anemones (Epizoanthus scotinus). And they’re everywhere. They start at a depth of about 80 feet, extend down easily […]

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