I cruised along the wall looking for nudibranchs when the back of a large crack started to move. Training my light deep within the crack revealed a mouth full of teeth beneath a huge forehead. The enormous wolf-eel was startled by my light and slowly retreated into the most private place of his lair, but not before he flashed his big canine teeth in a gesture of defiance.
Stillwater Cove lies on the north side of Carmel Bay, and the cove is protected by Pescadero Point. In the center of the cove are the massive Pescadero Rocks. Although there are many places to dive within Stillwater Cove, the best diving is on the massive wall just south of the rocks. Monterey’s charter captains call this site Dali’s Wall.
The bottom around Pescadero Rocks is shallow, around 20 feet. As you move south about 100 feet from the rocks the bottom drops, then juts up to a rock ridge that drops in two steps to about 70 feet. The wall runs around 100 feet and in many places is nearly vertical, except for the deep overhangs in several places. On the west side of the wall is a float marking the location of an underwater statue.
The rock surfaces of Dali’s Wall are covered with encrusting sponges in hues of cobalt, red, orange, and yellow. Among the sponges can be found an abundance of hermit and decorator crabs and shrimp. This area is also a great place to observe and photograph nudibranchs. Simple dorids such as the lemon and Monterey nudibranch are here in abundance. Orange and white clown nudibranchs, gaudy red and white Phidianas and ostentatious Dendronotids are there as well, but you will have to spend more time hunting for them. Nudibranchs are intrinsically photogenic, but at Dali’s you will find them on colorful backgrounds.
The nooks and crannies of the wall harbor an assortment of invertebrates and fish. It is a good idea to carry a flashlight so you can see what is hiding deep in the cracks. There are small sculpins and dock shrimp in the smaller cracks and rockfish and larger cancer crabs in the larger ones. This is a great place to photograph small fish. Take your time swimming along the wall as some of the more beautiful critters are well camouflaged and prefer not to be seen.
In the very deep cracks there is a very good chance you may spot a wolf-eel. While wolf-eels move around quit a bit and they are sometimes, but not always, found in the same spot. This is particularly good habitat for them and it is worth the time to search for them here. Sometimes you can find them out in the open, but normally they are tucked way back in a deep crack. Look for the most obvious sign of their presence–a pile of discarded mollusk shells at the entrance of their crack–to tip you off.
The bottom around the base of the wall is a particularly good place to find bright orange and bright red slipper sea cucumbers. It is also a good place to find resting rockfish, huge sun stars and an assortment of colorful anemones.
The calm conditions and interesting marine life make Dali’s wall the most frequently requested dive site on Monterey’s charter boats. The reasonable depths, long bottom times, calm waters, and abundance of colorful marine life make this an ideal spot for photographers and critter watchers.
Location: Along the 17 mile drive in Stillwater Cove, Pebble Beach. Drop your hook at 36° 33.663′ N, 121° 56.814″ W.
Access and entry: Boat only
Skill level: Beginner or better
Depths: 20 to 70 feet
Photography: Good macro photography for nudibranchs and other little invertebrates. This is a good spot to photograph small, reef fish and wolf-eels.
Hunting: This site is within the Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area and no invertebrates may be taken. It is legal to spearfish, but there is little worthy of shooting.
Hazards: Watch for thick kelp
Charter Boats Serving the Area: www.montereydiveboats.com