EXPLORE GREAT ESCAPE SCUBA DIVING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
|Santa Catalina Island||San Clemente Island|
|San Nicolas Island||Santa Barbara Island|
|San Miguel Island||Santa Rosa Island|
|Santa Cruz Island||Anacapa Island|
The closest island from our berth in San Pedro, “Catalina” is a only 19 miles away, a bit closer than the famous song “twenty six miles across the sea…” claims. There are hundreds of great dive sites to explore here.
The “front side” is the leeward (sheltered side) of the island and offers some of the best water clarity (30′ to 80’+) and the best diving conditions in Southern California for photographers and the mellow diver. This is where Cousteau filmed his famous “Night of the Squid” and “Those Magnificent Diving Machines” TV episodes. Currents are generally mild and there’s always a calm and clear site to dive. There is also good lobster and scallop hunting to be found and we know the secret spots. Several dive sites are ideally suited for open water or advance SCUBA training as well as deep or night dive training. Your students will also love feeding the bright orange Garibaldi, our state fish. One favorite site is Ship Rock, a nearby small rock of an island surrounded by 300’+ depths. This is one of the few sites that you will see the rare, yet docile, Angel Shark. This friendly shark can grow up to 6′ in length.
The “backside” of Catalina, the weather exposed side, also offers some great dive opportunities. Here we like to visit Farnsworth Banks an pinnacle system which averages about 100′ deep. Often the visibility here will allow the dive to see the boat all the way from the bottom! Many agree that this is one of the best dives in So Cal. Farnsworth is home to the rare Allopora californica or Purple Hydrocoral. Hard corals are rare in cold water and this is one of the few species that exists in our waters. The pinnacle is covered with the coral and makes great picture opportunities. Some experts have suggested that the coral variety found at Farnsworth Bank is a distinct species that is unique to this site. Look but don’t touch as the coral is protected. There are ample picture opportunities and Farnsworth Bank is also a great place for deep diver training.
Located approximately 25 miles south of Santa Catalina, San Clemente Island is known for it’s great variety. The “lee” of Clemente is home to consistently good water clarity, usually better than that found at Catalina. Typical visibility is 60′ – 80’+. Northwest Harbor is home of the shipwreck USS Butler, a naval destroyer sitting on a 80′ sandy bottom that we sometimes dive. The “backside” of San Clemente is known for abundant lobsters, pink and green abalone, and good spear fishing. Here there are many isolated deep water reef systems and pinnacles such as “9-fathoms” which offers clear water, rock scallops, purple coral colonies, plus big fish. San Clemente is webmaster Chris’ favorite destination.
This little gem of an island is located about 45 miles west of our berth and is a favorite spot for many. This is the home to hundreds of California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals and they often will become your dive buddies. Located here is Arch Reef, a huge submerged underwater archway in a rock wall that you can easily swim through. Lots of game fish, abalone, rock scallops and lobster make this island their home. Brittle StarReef is another popular macro photography dive site. Here the bottom literally moves because it is blanketed with millions of moving starfisharms.
“Nick” is the home of the big monster lobsters. Ten, twelve, and even fourteen pound “bugs” are not uncommon here. This is where the serious divers go to catch lobster. The diving here is a bit more “robust.” San Nick has weather exposed conditions and some mild currents. But if your after game, this is the best site around. Begg Rock is a small remote offshore “rock” near San Nick, and is rarely dove. Weather permitting, we always try for this spot. One word describes Begg; “spectacular.” Begg is a deep divers dream with “razorback ridge” a sheer drop straight down to the black abyss. Bring your lift bag here because your goody bag will be so full of dinner plate size rock scallopsthat you will be unable to lift it. I’m serious.
NORTHERN CHANNEL ISLANDS
By special arrangement, we may also visit the Northern Channel Islands during any of our 3 day or longer live aboard trips. These destinations are visited only upon special request. If interested in visiting these destinations, inquire with Great Escape Charters when making your charter reservations.
The western most of the Northern Channel Islands is San Miguel. San Miguel is influenced by the cooler, nutrient rich California current which results in cool water temperatures (55-60 F.) and marine life typical to what you would expect to find in the central California coastline. Here you may see Wolfeels, BIG halibut, HUGE Bugs, and very lush invertebrates and nudibranchs. One of our favorite sites here is Wilson Rock, a remote pinnacle offering great gaming for rock fish and halibut plus some of the best macro photography opportunities at San Miguel.
To the east lies nearby Santa Rosa Island, another fine area to explore. Here Talcott Shoals is a productive area for bugs and spear fishing. Another favorite site is Bee Rock, a remote pinnacle which is excellent for photography and home to giant rock scallops and good spear fishing.
San Miguel and Santa Rosa are the two western most, and most exposed, of the Northern Channel Islands. We recommend these islands for the seasoned diver.
To the east lies Santa Cruz Island which offers a bit milder diving conditions. Unknown to many, this island is home to a very extensive system of underwater caves and caverns. Diablo Anchorage offers one such example at the Diablo Point Cave which is a good beginning penetration cave dive and is ideal for introductory cavern diving classes. Scorpion Anchorage is also home to the wreck of the USS Peacock, a 100′ long wood hulled WW-II minesweeper (just like the Calypso) which is in great shape resting upright on a sheltered 60′ sandy bottom. And located within a few fin kicks is one of the best rock scallop sites on the coast.