Scuba Diving Photos
Drive and Dive: San Diego
Warm waters in San Clemente bring torpedo rays and soupfin sharks to kelp forests.
By Allison Vitsky Salmon
Southern California divers can be a bit vain when they’re abroad, relentlessly comparing exotic dives to sites at home. San Diego divers may well be the worst — not surprising, given that they have access to some of the world’s best diving on any given day. Happily, this bounty is available to all, including thousands of divers who visit the area each year.
California Classic: Kelp Diving
The kelp forest is often the first thing that comes to mind when California diving is mentioned; in San Diego, the choices are unmatched. La Jolla Cove, accessible by shore entry, requires a bit of parking savvy and patience, since the area is often crowded with swimmers, snorkelers and tourists. A bit of persistence can pay off in a big way, however, since divers can be immersed in a shallow kelp forest — 35-plus feet — within minutes.
While the viz might not be the best, this site offers divers a good chance to get up close and personal with nesting garibaldi, sea lions, harbor seals and even seven gill sharks.
Nearby sites at the Point Loma kelp beds — most lie between 45 and 120 feet — are reached by day boat and offer a slightly different kelp experience. This area is bathed with cold, nutrient-rich water that supports an incredible variety of life. The lush rocky reefs are a colorful riot of gorgonians, sponges and bryozoans; careful inspection of crannies and crevices will reveal moray eels, lingcod and cabezon. Point Loma’s phenomenal invertebrate density has also delighted many a nudibranch fanatic: It isn’t unheard of to see 20 different species of nudis on a single dive.
When divers are looking for warmer water and better visibility, an easy overnight run to San Clemente Island can transport them to a completely different kelp setting. At this southernmost of the California Channel Islands, purple hydrocoral and fiery-red gorgonians dot reefs, while torpedo rays and soupfin sharks patrol towering kelp forests in clear blue water, with many popular sites between 40- and 100-plus feet.
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