On the northeast end of San Clemente Island, Little Flower is one of those protected coves that’s nearly always calm. And, because it has something for everyone, novice to advanced, it’s quite popular with divers and the dive charter boats that ferry them to and from the mainland.
The shoreline extends 25 or more yards underwater, thus, the shallows are rocky and shrouded in palm kelp. Exploring this area is like a treasure hunt. The rocks and kelp hide and provide shelter for fish—including calico bass and giant kelpfish—along with lobster and horn sharks.
Right under the boat, in water less than 25 feet deep, you’ll find gray sand, studded with rocks, shells and small tufts of seaweed. One March day here, I photographed a baby bat ray. On another day, the skeletal remains of a small boat wreck provided photo opportunities.
Little Flower is yet another Clemente site that’s loaded with lobster. There are antennae monitoring the water for chemical signals everywhere. Some of the lobsters are quite bold, venturing out of their dens to check you out. Of course, those least afraid of us alien bubble-blowers are never legal size. (Wish I knew where they go when they grow up!)
While you can spend a lot of time sightseeing in the shallows, most divers head for Little Flower’s wall first, saving the shallows for the end of the dive. The wall begins about 300 yards offshore and is full of crevices hosting lobsters, moray eels, blue-banded gobys and myriad other small creatures. On one ideal sunny clear day here, I photographed kelp swaying above the wall while a garibaldi kept a watchful eye on me.
Little Flower features two rounded rocky promontories several yards in diameter. They are surprisingly shallow, coming within a few feet of the surface. I’ve often returned to the boat at the end of a dive to find it had swung over one of these, providing something to explore while making a three to five minute safety stop.
San Clemente is the southernmost of the eight channel islands, 41 miles from the mainland and 21 miles from Catalina. The 21-mile long island is owned by the government and administered by the U.S. Navy, which has been on a building spree for the past couple of decades. Every time I dive the island there seems to be something new on land. But while things are continually changing topside, the underwater world remains largely the same —and there is comfort in the familiar.