Exploring the kelp beds of the Channel Islands National Park is like diving in a giant forest filled with fascinating creatures. Capable of growing as much as 2 feet per day, kelp provides a habitat for everything from tiny nudibranchs to giant black sea bass that can weigh in excess of 500 pounds. And exploring these waters via live-aboard gives you access to more-remote sites, as well as the surreal experience of diving during the twilight hours or at night. Your itinerary will vary based on conditions, but when the weather is on your side, a trip to San Miguel is a real treat. Cooler currents circle this outpost where wolf eels and pinnipeds are the main attraction at sites like Wilson Rock, Point Bennett and Cuyler Harbor. Curious pups will dive-bomb you from every angle, coming within arm’s reach before they spin and dart away. The Truth Aquatics boat leaves from Santa Barbara for three- or four-day trips, but the best time to go (in our humble opinion) is with the scubadiving.com Diver to Diver Annual Truth Trip. Organized by message-board users every fall when the conditions are at their best but the crowds have subsided, this three-day charter has been a regular occurrence for nine years (and counting). The charter is limited to 25 divers, so you’re guaranteed of a long weekend with passionate divers, stuffing yourself on the excellent food and experiencing the best diving Southern California has to offer. — Andrew Wiens
Make It Happen
A spectacular way to experience Channel Islands diving is on the scubadiving.com Diver to Diver Annual Truth Trip. You can see images and read stories about previous trips at www.divertodiver.scubadiving.com under General Chat. Cost is $587 per person including diving, meals and accommodations. This year’s trip runs Sept. 8 to 11.