What a great place to play hide-and-go-seek with a harbor seal! I had equipped my camera for macro photography on this famous California wall dive, but the harbor sea had a different plan. Shy but fun loving, he was going to show me around.
I headed for the base of the wall at about 80 feet. The many stars and anemones came alive with colors of red and orange when my light shined on them. Looking up through the remarkably clear waters, I could see the round face of the harbor seal looking over the top ledge down at me some 40 feet above. He’ll get close if he wants. In the meantime, I went about tackling the many photo subjects with my camera.
The rock face was adorned with scallops, feather duster worms, chestnut cowries and sponges. Crawling around the slow and stationary animals were shrimp, crabs and small fish. I could spend an entire dive here with my macro camera in just a few square yards—but, out of the corner of my eye, I could see my friend coming closer, beckoning to follow him on a tour. I moved toward his smiling face and he showed me the first wonder I would have missed if I’d kept my noggin stuck to my camera too long.
He moved along the wall and ducked around a sudden and unexpected corner. Not only was Wyckoff Ledge a great wall dive, there were some rather large crevices built into this huge rock monolith. The deep canyon cut far back to an overhang with hiding rockfish, huge stars and a bushel-basket of urchins in every color. My friend had disappeared again, but no matter; my shutter finger was once again busy with painted greenlings, nudibranchs and kelpfish.
By now I was up off the bottom a bit and decided to head for the top of the reef to see what it held. Thick, lush kelp was the predominant growth. Under a rock I spotted some red abalone. Only two, but a good sign that San Miguel Island is still enough of a wilderness to hopefully provide seed stock for the rest of the islands for the decades to come needed for recovery.
The seal was back this time giving a brief rendition of a fan dance with the kelp. Across the top of the reef he zoomed and I followed, just enough to see him drop out of sight into what looked like a hole over by the edge of the wall— another crevice, this one deeper and longer than the last.
From the top of the reef at about 25 feet I dropped down the crevice some 40 feet and it became dark. Lights on, I saw schools of rockfish, blacksmith and small archway of rock—but no seal. He won—hide-and-go-seek with a harbor sea, at a labyrinth of rock like Wyckoff Ledge. What did I expect?
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: South side of San Miguel Island, near protected Tyler Bight, about 800 yards offshore. N34°01.007′, W120°23.276′ (GPS for reference only. Do not use as your sole source of navigation.) Marked on most charts. Easy to find from kelp growth and with a depth finder.
Access: Boat only. Use of a professional dive charter service strongly encouraged as waters around San Miguel Island can be treacherous.
Depths: 10 to 90 feet
Skill level: Intermediate or better.
Visibility: Very good. 50-60 fee average.
Photography: Excellent macro with abundant subjects. Good wide-angle in scenic kelp and in crevices.
Hunting: Fair for rock scallops. Occasional lobster in rockpiles in crevices and at base of wall. Spearfishing better elsewhere. Abalone are protected.
Ocean conditions: Protected from prevailing Northwest weather. Currents can sometimes be strong.