I love diving in the winter, especially when it comes to parking at one of the most popular dive spots in all of Southern California. On a recent winter dive we pulled up at Diver’s Cove in Laguna Beach and was one of two cars parked in the entire area.

Not only were we the only divers in sight, but we also had just had a few days of Santa Ana wind conditions. The water was flat calm, and looked incredible. It only took us a few minutes to suit up and off we went.

We chose to make a short surface swim and dropped down in about 15 feet of water. We hugged the right side of the cove and cruised over sand and small reefs. The reefs were non-descript except for the large amount of green aggregating anemones covering just about everything.

A large amount of garibaldi began following us as soon as we made our descent, no doubt waiting to be fed. I was tempted to open a few urchins to give the fish a few tidbits of food. I am sure many other divers have done the same, hence the garibaldi have become conditioned to thinking divers bubbles are the same as the dinner bell. I could understand why other divers feel it’s okay to bust open a few urchins. This reef, after all is covered by urchins. But this is a preserve and killing urchins, or any other animal, is illegal.

The reef is a large expansive area that you can follow out from shore to about 100 yards out. You will come across small patches of reefs and large patches, each covered with gorgonians. You will find chestnut cowries in most of the crevices. Large black, almost deep purple, sea hares can be found in large abundance. Starfish add different dashes of color over the reef.

At a depth of about 35 feet and 100 yards out you will come across a very large reef with a mini-wall rising about 10 feet from the bottom. There is a very large crack running the length of the reef. The crack is filled with gorgonians and a large abundance of medium to large rock scallops. Look but do not touch! Remember, this is a preserve. It is nice to see the rock scallops growing under the protection of the preserve.

Shearwater TERN

The cove is part of an ecological preserve and has been for many years. The friendliness of the fish is probably owed to their protected status. Nothing may be taken or disturbed from this cove and reefs. And it is not unusual for a plain-clothes California Fish and Game officer to patrol the bluff with binoculars. Many divers have, unfortunately, been cited.

There are a few patches of kelp here and there attached to the reefs. Hiding within those small patches are very large kelpfish. You have to look close as they do a wonderful job of camouflaging themselves. We came across one, surprisingly out in the open across the sand. It actually looked as if it were in the process of migrating to a different kelp area. It also appeared to be quite pregnant. Could this kelpfish have been looking for a nest for it to brood? As it moved in the water crossing over a small rock, we watched it encounter another kelpfish. Angering the kelpfish on the reef, it attached and then turned its body head down and quivered its body in an almost convulsive way. My only guess is that it was making its presence known and telling the intruder to stay away from its nesting area. Kelpfish are territorial.

Divers Cove is such a popular dive site thanks to a multitude of reasons. The access and entry is easy—a few stairs down from the street parking, and then a short sand beach leads easy access. Short of severe south swells, the diving here is almost always great—at least consistent. A large abundance of fish and invertebrate life can be found along with intermittent kelp patches.

If you are so inclined to try cross country diving, but don’t want to swim too far, try swimming north to Fisherman’s Cove, which is located just northwest of Divers Cove. It is a short swim over the reefs and crevices. Exit the water at Fisherman’s Cove, and it is then just a short walk up a path and a few steps back to your starting point.

Dive Spot At A Glance
: Northwest end of the Vedder Ecological Preserve and just northwest of the Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, just to the northwest of the center of town.
Access and Entry: A few steps down to a semi-protected sand beach entry.
Skill Level: All with beach dive training.
Depths: 10 to 35 feet.
Visibility: Good, averaging 20 feet.
Snorkeling: Very good.
Photography: Good with a lot of subject material and generally a fairly easy surf entry with camera.
Hunting: None, this is a preserve. Nothing may be taken or disturbed.
Facilities: Just a few metered parking spaces. Restrooms are a short walk at nearby Heisler Park. Restaurants and a dive shop are just a few blocks away.
Conditions: 949-494-6573 or online at http://www.scuba-superstore.com/store/conditions/conditions.asp.

California Diving News