Begin your dive trip from the Sea Landing in Santa Barbara Harbor and return to the scenic waterfront in the early evening, just in time for a nice dinner nearby. There are dozens of hotels within walking distance of the Sea Landing, so you can enjoy a nice staycation if you’re from California, or if you’re visiting, this is a great way to get to the islands and see what the buzz is all about!
Diving the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Diving in the kelp forests around the Channel Islands is a unique and different experience for divers more accustomed to tropical waters. Diving in kelp is like swimming through a lush forest of trees. Kelp can grow to heights of more than 120 feet forming overhead canopies. Giant kelp forests are an important aquatic ecosystem, providing habitat for more than 800 species of marine life.
Discover a wide variety of underwater landscapes. The Channel Islands underwater experience often includes brightly colored bouquets of anemones, sea stars, hydrocoral, sponges, and sea fans. Moray eels, octopus, abalone, rock scallops, California spiny lobsters, dozens of colorful nudibranch species, and a host of other invertebrates inhabit rock fissures and crevices. Divers encounter a wide variety of fish species such as halibut, lingcod, rockfishes, calico bass (a.k.a, kelpbass), bat rays and more. You’re almost certain to see the charismatic and bright-orange California State marine fish: the Garibaldi. During warmer months, you may be graced by the presence of a giant black sea bass weighing in at up to 500 pounds. Friendly seals and sea lions pay visits to divers to show off their graceful swimming abilities.
Each island offers a unique collection of sea life so even the most discriminating diver can find a variety that will keep them entertained over multiple dives or trips. The Santa Barbara Channel is the confluence of the colder California Current, which runs south from Northern California, and the California Counter Current, which runs north from Mexico – the result is an extremely biodiverse region with a mixture of southern and northern species. Across the range of the Channel Islands, species assemblages vary with the water temperature gradation – on multi-island trips you can observe this difference!
Water Temperature and Visibility
Water temperature can vary up to 15 degrees from the Northern and Southern ends of the island chain with an average of 50-60°F (10-16°C) in winter and 60-75°F (16-24°C) in summer. Visibility can vary over the seasons and with weather conditions, typically ranging from 20 to 60 feet, and can reach up to 100 feet from time to time.