Lulu Reef is a series of three rock pinnacles inside Eagle Reef on the mainland of Catalina Island’s west end. Because of its proximity to Eagle Reef, it sometimes does not get the attention it deserves.
All three rocks can be explored on a single dive. The main pinnacle is in the middle of a small rocky point. Rising from a depth of 60 feet to within just 12 feet of the surface, it is the largest (about the size of a large house) and most interesting of the three. And there are many rooms in this house to explore and many residents with which to visit. Perhaps the most interesting “room” to visit is the deep crack that runs on the seaward side of the rock face from about the top to halfway down the pinnacle. Only about eight inches wide, it is a sure place to see lobster and moray eels. Following the crack down to the base of the reef will bring you to the deepest part of the dive at about 60 feet. The jumble of boulders here contains more lobster, rockfish, and gorgonian sea fans. This is my favorite part of the dive. Schools of blacksmith fish move in and out of the thick, lush kelp. Sheephead and garibaldi are approachable. It’s an excellent location for wide-angle photos.
The west side of the main pinnacle is another of my favorite areas. Here the rock jumble becomes even more pronounced, with deep holes, small caves and archways. With so many rocky surfaces, it’s easy to get just the right camera angle on the nudibranchs sometimes found here or the colorful blue-banded gobies always found here. I also like this area because of its proximity to the west reef. This reef is not as tall but because it is on the leading edge of the current, it seems to be always bustling with marine life. Rock scallops are on the boulders feeding from the current. Calico bass wait in the kelp to ambush prey. On the seaward side, halibut can sometimes be found in the sand. Around the back of the main reef is a mini wall that gets a lot of sun. It’s shallower here, about 30 feet, and a good place to rest. The east end of the main reef features a very nice kelp forest.
And then just a little farther east is one more set of rocks, the smallest of the three. Only a few feet high, it is a nice place to hunker down in shallow but calm waters and get those perfect garibaldi pictures you always wanted.
There is another reef farther to the east that breaks the surface but that is a bit of a swim. And there are also rocks between the main reef and Eagle Reef in deeper water.
Although the entire Lulu reef could be explored in one dive, I prefer to make it a leisurely afternoon of two or three excursions, exploring all the rooms of this magnificent house and visiting as many of its residents as possible.
Location: Inshore of Eagle Reef on the mainland side of the west end of Catalina Island between Lion Head and Emerald Bay. Generally not marked on the charts. GPS: N 33°27.285′, W118°30.380′
Access and Entry: Boat only but within kayaking distance of Two Harbors (kayak rentals available).
Skill Level: Beginner or better.
Visibility: Very good, averaging 40 to 50 feet.
Depths: 12 to 55 feet.
Snorkeling: Good across top of reef, but even better on shallow reefs near shore.
Photography: Very good wide-angle and macro.
Hunting: This is an invertebrate preserve. Take of lobster, scallops, urchins, etc. is prohibited. Spearfishing is poor to fair.