The underwater portion of Point Lobos State Reserve is divided into two parts—one where permitted divers may go, and one where they may not. Like many, I have always wondered what the diving would be like in the forbidden area. I guess I’ll just have to keep on wondering since there is no chance I’ll ever dive there. However, the next best thing may be the site just south of the reserve, an area we call Gibson Beach.

Gibson Beach is a great place to dive when the northwesterlies are running. The massive Point Lobos does a good job of sheltering the beach and surrounding area from a moderate swell, and the reserve to the north means that the area has plenty of fish life.

Boats may anchor in 40 to 60 feet of water on the south side of the beach. The bottom under the boat is mostly rock with a bit of sand between massive rock formations. The first thing you will notice here are the fish. They are everywhere. Thick schools of blue rockfish move among the kelp in shallow water. Big, fat vermilion rockfish, lingcod, and cabezon are found among the jumble of boulders.

Directly off the beach is a shallow (20 to 40 feet) reef, comprised of sand with massive rocks jutting up towards the surface. These create a maze of canyons caves and swim throughs. Little frilly nudibranchs, small reef fish and an assortment of tiny crabs and shrimp are found on the walls. This is as good spot to photograph nudibranchs as you will find and many colorful species, such as the clown and horned nudibranch.

In deeper water are a series of rock fingers that originate at the beach and run parallel out into 90 to 100 feet of water. The sides of these fingers are vertical walls and are adorned with an assortment of colorful invertebrate life. The scale of the is reef is so overwhelming that you will need to take little effort to notice the reefs small inhabitants. Orange and yellow sponges cover some areas, while huge Tealia anemones form a monopoly in other locations. In deeper water large Metridium anemones dot the rocky walls and sift the water for plankton.

Shearwater TERN

Boats may also anchor a bit south of the stone house. There is a flat area in 50 to 60 feet of water just outshore of a massive reef. The flats holds little of interest for divers, but as you swim inshore the bottom juts up in a massive wall. The wall is covered with every kind of invertebrate found in Central California—sponges, anemones, tunicates, nudibranchs, and the list goes on. There is color everywhere.

The rock outcropping is honeycombed with valleys and canyons. These are a lot of fun to explore, and to photograph. Some go through the rock, others dead end in little caves and alcoves. Oh, yes, there are a lot of fish here as well.

We all know that there is more life in marine reserves. Reserves are giant nurseries for marine life, and the abundance of Point Lobos overflows into the adjacent Gibson Beach. So, if you are looking for a site with rugged bottom topography along with an abundance of marine life, you can do no better than Gibson Beach.

Dive Spot At A Glance
: Just south of and adjacent to Point Lobos State Reserve
Access and Entry: Boat dive only.
Depth: 20 to 80 feet
Visibility: Generally good, 20-50 feet
Skill level: All
Hunting: Due to the proximity to the Reserve, game taking here is not recommended.
Photography: Good wide-angle and macro. Great place for fish photos.
Special considerations: There is some confusion over the location of the southern reserve boundary. On the “official” map that the Point Lobos Reserve sells, the bounty is at the mouth of Gibson Creek on the north side of Gibson Beach. However, many of the Rangers believe that the bounty is marked by the large stone house some 100 yards south of the beach. Because of this confusion, the Rangers allow dive boats to anchor here provided that they do not take game and that divers do not swim north of Bird Rocks. Divers should take heed as this site is located right next to the forbidden area of the Reserve. Even divers entering through the reserve with permits cannot dive here.
Hazards: Watch for swell and surge.

California Diving News