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What You Should Expect To See While Scuba Diving on Catalina

People have been beckoned to Catalina Island with enticing advertising for decades. “In all the world no trip like this,” ads once promised, touting Santa Catalina as, “California’s magical isle.” Over the years, some of the tourist offerings have changed; you can now have a spa day or a massage. You can rent a fancy cabana or an electric golf cart. But one magical part has remained relatively constant: the beauty and majesty of Catalina’s marine life and underwater gardens. The waters around the island are teeming with life, colorful species of all kinds, and perhaps, even some sunken treasure. Read on to learn about what you should expect to see while scuba diving on Catalina.

1.) Kelp forests: In the coves around the island, you’ll see huge forests comprised of seaweed of many kinds: giant kelp, feather boa kelp, bull whip kelp, and elk kelp. Though these plants tend to be brown in color, the sun shines through the water onto a kelp forest, making this flora glow a golden color. This seaweed happens to be one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, serving as homes, hiding places, rest stops, food sources, breeding grounds, or nurseries for many different species. Fun fact: giant kelp can grow as much as three feet per day, thriving in the rich nutrients of the Pacific.

2.) Garibaldi: No list of things to see while scuba diving in Catalina would be complete without a mention of California’s state marine fish. This bright orange damselfish, which resembles a giant goldfish, is eye-catching. These fish tend to like rocky reef communities. Juveniles are especially outstanding, as their bright, iridescent blue markings make them look like they’re glowing underwater.

3.) Sea hares: A large variety of invertebrates lurk in the waters around Catalina. The sea hare happens to be one of the most interesting ones you’ll find. Two different sea hare species can be found around the island: the California sea hare and the black sea hare. These squishy, slug-like creatures can grow to be 16 inches long and weigh 5 pounds. They tend to love living in rocky areas where they can feast on algae.

4.) California spiny lobster: You might have to do a night dive to see one of these reddish-brown, clawless critters. These lobsters, with their spiny antennae are plentiful around the island. It is reported that a record-setting 16-pound male was caught off Catalina back in 1968. They tend to feed on sea urchins, clams, mussels, and worms—helping to keep the sea bed healthy. (NB: Lobster season in California is usually early October to March).

5.) Leopard shark: These smaller, spotted sharks tend to be quite gentle as they swim through Catalina coves, looking to snack on crabs, shrimp, or rockfish. While some can grow larger, the average leopard shark is about 4 feet. They’re an abundant species around Catalina, but be sure to be considerate of these spotted sharks and all marine life while diving.

6.) California sheephead: These colorful fish live in the rocky reefs and kelp beds. Fun fact: All sheepheads are born female, and eventually some change to male. Males tend to be bigger with a black head, black tail, and red middles. Females are light pink and white. Sheepheads are carnivores with large teeth; they roam from their refuge areas to forage throughout the day.

7.) Shipwrecks: Boating is a way of life around Catalina, and it has been since the island’s first known inhabitants used canoes. There’s a legend of an 18th century Spanish galleon, a supply ship lost at sea, which could have possibly sunk somewhere near Catalina. One boat that is certainly in the waters off Catalina is the Valiant. Back in 1930, the Valiant, a 162-foot luxury yacht caught fire and sunk at the far edge of Descanso; garibaldi and giant kelp occupy the wreck. Though it was rumored that thousands of dollars in gems and cash went down with the boat, it has been salvaged extensively. Inside of the Casino Dive Park sits another sunken yacht, the Suejac, which went down in a wind storm. The Suejac is an accessible wreck, with some great photo ops among sea fans, blue-banded gobies, and other colorful sea life.

Let Catalina Divers Supply be your guide. Catalina is one of the best dive destinations in the country. Whether you dive at Casino Dive Park or another island site, Catalina Divers Supply can help you with a safe and enjoyable experience scuba diving on Catalina. Book online, or give us a call at 310-510-0330.

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