There are few experiences that can compare with diving along a steep wall. The sheer exhilaration that one feels flying along the wall can only be compared to flight. It may, very well, be the closest thing we will ever get to flying like a bird. And there are the animals. Walls are bathed in nutrient-laden waters, and consistently present divers with more and more diverse critters.
While most of us are accustomed to hopping on a boat to get to California’s best wall dives, there are a few exceptional sites that can be reached from the beach. One of my favorite walls with beach access is the one at Bluefish Cove. This site is part of Point Lobos State Reserve and no fishing is allowed. Thus, the fish here are large and numerous, and the marine life pristine.
All divers must enter and exit the water at the launch ramp at Whalers Cove. While diving within Whalers Cove is very good, exceptional diving is found around the corner to the left in Bluefish Cove. On calm days swim along the west side of Whalers Cove and between Cannery Point and Bird Rocks. This route should be avoided on rough days, when divers should navigate on the outside of Bird Rocks. The drop-off begins about 30 yards beyond the Bird Rocks.
A shallow area may be found at 40 feet, where the entire surface of the rock is adorned with a multitude of striking colors. Thick carpets of red corynactis anemones cover some areas, while red volcano or cobalt sponges cover others. Small crabs and an assortment of nudibranchs feed among the colorful collage. At least 50 of the 130 or so species of nudibranchs that inhabit California waters may be found here. This is also an excellent spot for macro photography.
To the west the bottom drops to over 100 feet. This wall is not vertical and smooth, but steeply-sloping, and cut deeply with steep-sided canyons and wandering valleys. Divers will find the topography here to be among the most varied and high profile in the state. You will not get bored wandering through mazes of valleys that seem to be never ending. Every turn presents the diver with another surprise. Colorful anemones and pink and purple hydrocoral dot the vertical surfaces in deeper waters. The intensity of the color of these corals is amazing.
It is also an outstanding spot for fish watching and photography. Since the fish here have never seen a speargun, they are not as afraid of divers as they are at near-by sites. Huge lingcod will sit still long enough to allow you to photograph the copepods on their chins. Other fish will go about their day as if you are not there, allowing you to get good “behavior” shots. This is a great spot to observe cabezon guarding their nests. You may swim through large schools of rockfish.
So if Monterey’s dive boats are all full up, you will certainly want to check out the wall at Bluefish Cove. Leave your speargun home, but by all means bring your camera and enjoy one of California’s best beach/wall dives.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: In Point Lobos State Reserve, just south of Carmel.
Access and Entry: Divers may only enter the water at the boat ramp in Whalers Cove. It’s a long swim around the corner to Bluefish cove, and many dive Bluefish from a boat or kayak. Diving is limited to 15 teams of two divers per day. Reservations for diving are encouraged and may be obtained on-line up to two months in advance at: http://ptlobos.parks.state.ca.us/scuba/divereserv.html. Divers are given a complete set of regulations when they register at the ranger station. The park opens at 9:00 a.m., closes at sunset, and diving is restricted to Whalers and Bluefish Coves.
Depth: 15-100 feet
Skill: Intermediate to advanced
Hunting: None. The entire area is a reserve and no natural object may be removed, collected, or disturbed in any way, both above and below the water.
Photography: Excellent wide-angle and macro photography, great fish photography.
Hazards: Watch for boat traffic and big swells and surge near the cove’s mouth.