Seven of the eight Channel Islands get their names from saints, generally because they were first discovered by Spanish explorers on that particular saint’s feast day. The one exception is Anacapa Island. Anacapa Island gains its name from a perversion of the Chumash Indian name for mirage. Anacapa is the closest to the mainland of all the Channel Islands and the first in the chain of the Northern Channel Islands. Viewed from the mainland, often shrouded in fog, mist and haze, it must have often appeared as a mirage.
One of Anacapa’s mirages is that it is one continuous island; it is not. It is actually three islands divided by small breaks of impassible swirling waters, rich in white foam and shallow rocks.
The dive site known as “The Gap” gains its name from this space between Middle Anacapa island and East Anacapa. The reef is located on the backside (south facing side) and is located to the east of the actual gap between the islands.
This is a fairly shallow dive and is often visited after a deeper dive in the area such as the always popular Coral Reef. The reef extends out into 50 feet of water, but most of the fun and scenery is between 20 and 40 feet. Out from the Island are a series of ridges, roughly parallel to shore, with large, deep gaps between. While diving shallow on the south side of Anacapa often presents problems with surge, these valleys between the high ridges offer protection from the incoming swells. And you are close enough to shore to avoid currents that can sometimes plague the area.
Kelp is thick and healthy across the ridges but thinner in the small valleys. Being a photographer, I like to concentrate my time in the valleys where there is an abundant supply of subject material—most of it of the macro variety.
Small and medium-sized fish dot the ledges. Because they are of the reef variety, most will sit still while you take their portraits. My favorites are the rockfish, painted greenlings and ghost gobies. Other even more stationary subjects include anemones, colorful stars, sponges, and tunicates. Brightly hued nudibranchs are present as well.
Wide-angle photography is fair with the tall kelp on the high profile reefs as a back drop. You may be visited by harbor seals. You will definitely be welcomed by bright orange garibaldi.
Game taking here is only fair. There is a smattering of scallops and some lobster among the boulders in very shallow. Out deeper look for the occasional halibut. Medium sized kelp bass can sometimes be found in the kelp.
The reef known as “The Gap” is enjoyable just for cruising, too. Just wind your way in and out of the reefs and valleys and you will almost certainly find several items to delight your eyes.
Special thanks to the dive charter boat Spectre for help in creating this article.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: To the east of the gap between Middle and East Anacapa Islands on the south side.
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: All
Depths: Up to 50 feet but most diving is done at 20 to 40 feet.
Visibility: Good, averages 30 to 40 feet.
Photography: Good especially for macro.
Hunting: Only fair. A few scallops and lobster. Some spearfishing.
Hazards: Thick kelp. Surge.