Anyone going through this site will have noticed that there are lot of posts labeled Diving Anacapa Island. This one is the 15th to be exact. Obviously I like that island. It has become my goto destination for some quality fish time. There are a few reasons for that. The simplest one is that, aside from shore diving, this is the closest dive site. It is also the quickest to get to by boat. But that really does not do the island justice. I would go there even if I had to take a vacation to do so.
Parts of Anacapa island has been a marine protect area, or MPA, since the mid-80’s. It was one of the first such areas. They have since been extended quite a bit. The protection ensures that fish and lobster can live a long life well into their fertile ages. That in turn greatly increases their numbers. Eventually the juveniles will migrate to neighboring areas and repopulate those. In the beginning a lot of people protested not being able to hunt or fish, but in the end this is a win-win situation. The MPAs ensure a never ending and steady supply of hatchlings for the open areas next to them. That again ensures that fishermen will have something to catch without overfishing the entire area.
For me it means that there are areas with abundant marine life. And since these critters do not see divers as threats, they are more friendly and happy to pose for my photos. Besides fish, the California Channel islands are also famous for their kelp forests. The California Giant Kelp forms dense canopies on the surface. It is like flying through a forest and unlike any other diving out there.
Summer is also when the water gets warm and a bit clearer. People accustomed to the Caribbean or pacific tropics would surely disagree with me. Warm means 60ºF (16ºC) and clear is around 40 ft (10 m) visibility. Those would be truly horrible conditions in many famous vacation spots. To us in Southern California, it is paradise.
With that in mind, it is also the time when I try to squeeze in as many hours under water as I can. The first trip was mid-June on the Spectre, one of 3 operations out of Ventura harbor. Not a lot of big critter photos this trip as I am trying to improve my photography skills. I only took my 60 mm macro lens on this trip and played around a few subjects.
Two weeks later I managed to hop on a last minute spot on the Peace, by far my favorite boat. This time the water had cleared up even more and I switched over to my standard lens, a 17 – 50 mm, in hopes to document the beauty of the kelp forests. At the same time I am still tinkering with my camera setup to make it work better. Someone on the boat referred to it as a science fair experiment. I guess with 2 large strobes, 2 Sola video lights, a GoPro and ample hardware to connect all of it, it might well qualify for one. That contraption did pay off big time for me, though. On the first dive I encountered two mid-size bat rays hunting for food and was able to take a nice movie of those magnificent animals. On the last dive, I caught an octopus out and about and was able to shot that.
Of course I also have a bunch of photos to along. The visibility was amazing and seeing a Bat ray always gets a big smile on my face. However, this day was special in another way. I love nudibranchs and try to find as many as I can. This time was the first time I saw a California blue dorid (Felimare californiensis). Apparently they have been extinct around here for some time and are only recently making a comeback(1). They are some of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen with their deep blue body.