If you enjoy being on or in the water, California’s Channel Islands scuba diving offers some of the best natural beauty the world has to offer. It’s life source?…cool Pacific Ocean water with the professional dive team from the MV Horizon.
The Channel Islands Liveaboard Experience
Sunlight filtered by the kelp canopy becomes an array of thin green-yellow splinters illuminating kelp fronds and fish immediately below. Juvenile calico bass and small kelpfish are well-camouflaged between brown kelp stipes and tangled blades. Small groups of sardines, almost invisible against the blue sky above, dart inches beneath the surface where the canopy clears. Slight surge rocks the entire forest gently back and forth. Since 1980 we have been offering liveaboard scuba charters to this unique destination.
Dominating the scene are columns of giant kelp and rocky reefs and walls carpeted in short palm frond kelp and clusters of red algae and speckled with sponges, anemones, gorgonian and deep-water hydrocoral. Scuba divers dropping down only halfway to the reefy bottom below can navigate to shore, suspended quietly among the towering plants.
Bright individual garibaldi and scattered schools of blacksmith, perch and bass swim busily over the reefs while a few nocturnal lobster and horn sharks are still seeking shelter for the day in the form of holes and ledges. Occasional open sand areas within the kelp bed, accompanied by clearings in the canopy above, seem like huge well-lit rooms in an immense shadowy building and attract large swirling schools of jack mackerel, sunbathing sea lions and the occasional Pacific barracuda.
Sound good? This describes some of the finest diving in the world! The California kelp beds, vibrant with life, offer a multitude of water based opportunity.
The Changing of the Seasons
California may not have easily recognizable seasons, but on the ocean, the changing of the seasons is definite and clear. The Humboldt and Davidson currents that parallel the California coast transport cool water from the north into our southern California waters. The cooler water stimulates the kelp forests in a cycle of regrowth at a rate of up to two feet per day.
The pelagic fish that have gathered in the summer and fall months have headed south in search of warmer Baja waters. The Channel Islands settle into a winter routine with kelp bass, giant black sea bass, schooling barracuda and other perennial species remaining. Pelagic birding in the inshore waters between California’s coast and these islands along with the “deep blue sea” offshore areas past the edge of the Continental Shelf abound with nomadic seasonal bird species. Albatross, shearwaters, terns, gulls, tropicbirds, kittiwakes, jaegers, boobies and petrals are just a few species encountered.
Seals, Whales and More
Marine mammals abound in the waters around the Channel Islands during the winter months and our liveaboard divers have seen it all. The once endangered California Gray whale passes close by enroute north and south on its 12,000 mile migration. Seals, sea lions and elephant seals also cruise the waters and haul out on the shores of these islands. Spring’s arrival warms the water and the hearts of the ocean’s inhabitants. Seals and sea lions give birth to pups, sea bass and bat rays display dramatic mating rituals and garibaldi fish guard their nests. Massive schools of sardines and mackerel form huge biomasses and are a prelude to summer.
The waters warm and soon summer is here. Pelagic fishes such as yellowtail, yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna are attracted to the islands by the endless food supply. Blue whales migrate through our waters and pods of common dolphins stretching as far as the eye can see often surround the boat. Before you know it fall is here with some of the clearest and calmest water of the year. Water temperatures in the mid to upper 60s are delightful when combined with water clarity so great one gains the unreal sensation of flight.
Guadalupe Island Shark Cage Diving
The seasons change and the cycle continues as it has for thousands of years. Our goal on the MV Horizon is to observe these changes while not disturbing nature’s beauty. Whichever season you choose, each offers a unique and exciting experience with nature. Let’s dive!