Sometimes all you need is a yen to go diving, your gear, and a way to the beach. At other times access to the better dive sites require a bit more planning. You may need to sign on to a charter boat well in advance to reach the more exposed and prolific sites, or you may need to think ahead and make a reservation at one of our restricted diving areas. Several dive sites that justify the time to plan ahead are the magnificent locations within the Point Lobos State Reserve. One of my favorite sites is the Bluefish Cove Wall, and it is accessible from shore.
There are several ways to dive the Bluefish Wall, but all divers must enter the park through the main entrance, be one of the maximum of 15 buddy pairs each day, and must enter and exit the water at the launch ramp at Whalers Cove. Divers without access to boats or kayaks should head left out of the launch ramp and follow the channel through the kelp to the leeward side of the wash rocks (Bird Rocks). On very calm days it is possible to swim between Cannery Point and Bird Rocks and make a clockwise excursion around wall and reef structure surrounding Bird rock. This route should be avoided on rough days, since the area between Cannery Point and Bird rocks can be very dangerous in a moderate swell. Otherwise swim to the right of bird rocks and proceed counterclockwise and retrace your steps. Unless you have a big tank or rebreather, it is best to surface swim to Bird rocks, and begin your dive there.
Divers with boats or kayaks should anchor in the lee of Bird Rocks and dive the same plan. Occasionally, Monterey’s charter boats will offer special trips, where they meet divers in Whalers Cove and shuttle them to the Reserve’s many dive sites. Beginning your dive on the seaward side of Bird Rocks in a good option in this situation.
A shallow area may be found at 40 feet on the seaward side of Bird Rocks, 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 patchwork quilt. This is an excellent spot for macro photography, and you are likely to find many of the state’s nudibranchs in this shallow garden.
To the west the bottom drops to over 100 feet. This wall not is vehicle and smooth, but steeply slopping, and cut deeply with steep-sided canyons and wandering valleys. The mazes of valleys that seem to be never ending, and every surface of he rock is covered with colorful encrusting marine life. Colorful anemones and pink and purple hydrocoral dot the vertical surfaces in deeper waters. This is one of the better spots in central California to see big trees of hydrocoral.
Bluefish Cove outstanding spot for fish watching and fish photography. Since the fish here have never seen a speargun they are completely unafraid of divers. Some expect divers to yield the right-of-way. Huge lingcod will sit still enough to allow you to photograph the copepods on their chins. During the winter both lingcod and cabezon may be found guarding their nests. At this time they are particularly vulnerable to having their portrait captured. Other fish will go about their day as if you are not there, allowing you to get good “behavior” shots. Of course, the site takes its name from the often-enormous schools of blue rockfish that hang out in the beds of giant kelp.
Diving at Point Lobos remains among the best in the state for many reasons. First, the sites have access to deep, nutrient filled waters. Second, the Reserve has limited access to only 30 divers per day, keeping diver-induced damage to a minimum. Third, the Reserve has not permitted the taking of game since 1960, so the area has not been subjected to the depletion of game so common in the rest of our oceans. It is certainly worth the time to make a reservation.
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 online up to two months in advance at: “http://www.ptlobos.org/DiveReservations.html“. Divers are given a complete set of regulations when they register at the ranger station. The park opens at 8 a.m., closes a half hour after sunset, and diving is restricted to Whalers and Bluefish Coves. Currently the cost is $10 per diver to register, $10/car entry fee, and a $5 boat launch fee.
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.
Charter Boats Serving the Area: www.montereydiveboats.com