Diving Santa Barbara Island
Location: 44 Miles from Redondo Beach
Access: By boat only! Larger dive boats suggested!
Depths: 20' - 100'
Photography: Best at Sea Lion Rookery
The smallest of the eight Channel Islands (one square mile in area), it is one of the five included in the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary.
The pinnipeds are among the reasons Santa Barbara Island is a nature lover's paradise underwater.
Until the 1980s, divers ignored the California Sea lions that surrounded them when they entered the water at The Rookery, off the island's southeast side. Now, however, divers delight in their antics. Watching eagerly - and participating. Typically, these are females and pups. They love to rush at you, turning away at the last possible instance and blowing bubbles. They also like to dive bomb human bubble blowers on the bottom. Have no fear; in 26 years of diving this spot I have never heard of anyone being bitten! The Rookery is just one o
f many outstanding dive sites off Santa Barbara!
Another is Hidden Reef AKA Arch Reef, which breaks the surface in a moderate swell. It is nearly three-quarters of a mile directly west of Webster Point. The sandy bottom under the 'Arch' is 55 feet deep. The walls leading to it are home to purple hydrocoral, Corynactis anemones, lacy bryozoans, starfish, nudibranchs and various other colorful invertebrates! A crevice near the top of the arch is full of dozens of Spiny Lobster!
Sutil Island is not much more than a large rock, 300 feet high, off the southwest side of Santa Barbara. Diving usually takes place off its southeast and
northeast sides in a thick kelp forest. Depths here are shallow, usually less than 50 feet. Marine life is prolific with vast biodiversity.
Elephant Seal Cove is between Webster (the island's westernmost area) and Arch Points (its northernmost area). Here, on a shallow, sandy bottom, seeing Califor
nia Sea lions is almost guaranteed. They flip, turn somersaults, barrel roll and twist around
you as you descend, then lie on the sand and watch you with large, liquid eyes. Groups of three or more will often come by to check you out.
Shag Rock, half as tall as Sutil Island and considerably smaller in area, is also surrounded by kelp. Depths are shallow, less than 60 feet.