In the multitude of holes and mini-caves we found numerous lobster, an octopus, and a couple of moray eels. Mountains of rock rise from the bottom dotted with thousands of bright blue and red blue-banded gobies and here and there dazzling Spanish shawl nudibranchs.
This was our third dive of the day. So far it had been an exceptional day of diving but it seems that our dive charter boat, Sundiver Express, had saved the best dive for last. While it is a great dive for any time of day its relatively shallow nature makes this an ideal plunge for the last dive of the day.
Julie (“Jules”), skipper of the boat, gave us the name of the dive site that described it well: “Nooks and Crannies.” But really it should have been Nooks, Crannies and Mountains. Sharp and tall underwater pinnacles dot the underwater bottom profile, some rising 30 feet nearly vertical. There are big undercuts and broken slabs and chunks of rocks broken away. Considering this location covers a relatively small area of bottom, there are scores of holes, mini-arches, cracks and crevices. There is enough here to easily fill an entire dive and still barely notice the other divers nearby.
Maximum depth for the reefs at the base of these mountains is about 55 feet. Even so, average dive depth is around 30 to 40 feet with lots to explore deeper and shallow. I looked at the dive profile graph on my computer at the end of my dive and I was all over the map — deep, shallow, moderate, shallow, moderate, deep and so on. This was a dive that I enjoyed so much. I kept finding interesting holes all over the place, up and down. The nooks and crannies were everywhere.
There are a lot of holes all the way up to the surface. Don’t miss the shallow area as it is also abundant with marine life and the lighting is excellent. This is, by the way, a good area for your snorkeling buddies.
A small fiberglass boat recently ran aground and broke up on the east side of the point. Some of the debris can be seen on shore. More can also be found underwater in the shallows. I found a juvenile moray eel cowering in some of the wreckage.
Something I really liked seeing here was the numerous abalone. Yes, abalone. Most were pink abalone but here and there were greens. While these protected critters are making spotty comebacks along the front side of Catalina Island it is pleasing to see the population density here, as this is what it takes to have these mollusks reproduce most effectively.
This is a good lobster hunting location in season. Most are shorts but finding the lairs of legal sized “bugs” is not that hard. It’s removing them from their holes that proves challenging. For maximum success, night dive at the base of the reef where the sand meets the rocks or outward across the sand. These scavengers often abandon the shelter of the reef under the cover of darkness and forage out across the sand at night.
A few small strands of kelp remain, which means the small kelp forest that once covered this location may return when the water cools down.
Bright orange garibaldis are abundant here, as is usual for Catalina Island. Their antics are fun to watch, especially when they are nesting. Want a challenge for underwater fish photography? Juvenile sheephead have been especially abundant as of late. These two to three inch babies rarely sit still long enough for a photo. The small calico bass are plentiful also for photography.
You will need to be a skilled and persistent spearfisher to do well here. Large calicos are uncommon but you might have some luck with yellowtail that sometimes cruise through. Halibut sometimes also inhabit the sand to the west.
Dive sites need not be large or deep for a fun and exciting dive with lots of marine life. Nooks and Crannies is on my list for just that kind of dive location.
Skill Level: All levels
Location: Off the small rocky point just to the west of the GPS N33°25.409′, W118°24.792′
Access: Boat only. Charter boats leave from Avalon, Redondo Beach, San Pedro and Long Beach. For private boats there are multiple boat launching facilities in those ports.
Depth Range: 15 to 60 feet
Conditions: Excellent. Nearly always calm. Little current.
Visibility: Averages 40 to 50 feet.
Photography: Good macro and wide-angle.
Hunting: Good lobster location; fair for spearfishing.
Cautions: Boat traffic.