The anchor had no sooner hit the water and the sea lions were slapping the surface daring us to come and play. I could not get my wetsuit on fast enough. I have been diving for just about 25 years and this scenario never changes. Any dive site that offers up sea lions, kelp, consistent visibility and great sea life keeps me diving and, more importantly, keeps me excited.
Anacapa Island off the coast of Ventura offers so many of those dive sites, including the one I was about to jump into called Landing Cove Point at Anacapa Island. Anacapa Island is actually three islands, and you will find Landing Cove Point on the east island. Visitors are allowed to visit this area for both tours and camping, and there is only one way to get on the island, by boat via Landing Cove. Just to the west of the cove as you make you way out to a rocky point, you’ll find Landing Cove Point.
The boat was anchored in about 35 feet over sand, just outside a wonderfully thick kelp forest. The sea lions spent most of their time in an up-and-down column over the sand flats picking up an occasional rock and bolting for the surface. I think they wanted to play catch. They would swoop in and out blowing bubbles. They never slowed down. For as much as I wanted to stay and play, my buddy was getting anxious to move on and see what photo opportunities might await us in the kelp.
This was the first time I was glad I left the sea lions behind. As we moved across the sand heading to the kelp, I spied a very large outline of a fish in the sand. I was about 15 feet off the bottom and at this level could see things pretty clearly. Though the halibut thought it was pretty well camouflaged, I could see him just because of his sheer size. He was huge. I signaled to my buddy and we spent a while photographing the halibut. As long as you stay pretty low and move slowly, you can get a fair amount of photos before he gets uncomfortable and moves to safer ground. His moving signaled our time to get into the kelp for more potential photos.
The photo opportunities kept getting better. Dale and I had no more moved into the kelp canopy when we came across a giant black sea bass at least five feet long. This one moved its great big eye in our direction, didn’t think us a threat and continued to float in the kelp while we took picture after picture. What a glorious creature! Every time I see one, I smile and think where have you been all these years? No one saw them for years. Many thought they were gone for good and on their way to extinction having been overfished decades ago. Then a few years ago, we started hearing about occasional sightings. Those occasional sightings have turned to frequent sightings, both at the islands and on beach dives. This is a wonderful example of how protecting an animal does work.
Landing Cove Point does have its big animals, but there are so many things to see you could dive here over and over and focus on a different plan each time. The fish life is abundant, where you will see large sheephead, schools of blacksmith and salema. You’ll find opaleye, calico, señoritas, and rock wrasse, and don’t forget to look for striped yellow and black tree fish, and up on the rocks, blue-banded gobies will dart in and out. Lobster can be found in the rocks, but remember that the entire landward side of the East Island of Anacapa is a marine preserve out to 60-feet deep. Even after you see all the marine life and take all your pictures, you could still move into the caves in the rocky face of the island. But I was saving that for my next trip to Anacapa Island.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Where: Outside of the rocky point on the west side of Landing Cove, frontside of East Anacapa Island.
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: All (cave diver training required for cave penetration)
Depths: 15 to 50 feet.
Visibility: Very good, averaging 40 to 50 feet.
Photography: Excellent wide angle with good kelp shots, sea lions, giant black sea bass (during the summer and late fall) and caves. Good macro also mainly of reef fish.
Hunting: None. This is a heavily patrolled marine preserve.
Notes: Do not tie up to mooring buoys or anchor nearby as these are for official use only. Stay clear of Landing Cove boat traffic.