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Diving Catalina Island:

Catalina Island overview

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Kelp at Ship Rock, Catalina Island dive site - Courtesy of Jason Pepper

Angel shark at Ship Rock, Catalina Island dive site - Courtesy of Carina Hall

Scorpionfish at Ship Rock, Catalina Island dive site - Courtesy of Carina Hall

Scuba Diving in Catalina Island, California, USA

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Ship Rock

Location: Catalina Island

Description: Seamount / reef

Depth: 40 metres max (130 feet)

Visibility: 15 - 20 metres (50 - 65 feet)

Rating: *****

Ship Rock is a seamount that rises about 15m out of the sea. On the north side the pinnacle descends to 40m to a sandy bottom. On the south side it is shallower and rocky. I did three fantastic dives here during my trip. Each time I headed straight to the bottom of the rocks to 36m in search of angel sharks. On our first dive here we found five angel sharks, apparently you used to be able to find 20+ but due to spear fisherman their numbers have recently declined. I hope they will gradually increase their numbers in the future.

You should look closely in the sand to find the angel sharks as they are incredibly well camouflaged and actually buried under it. I wonder if they just sleep here all day, they are extremely docile and beautiful. I lifted one of the sharks out of the sand by holding up each pectoral fin, however if you do this you should be very gentle with the shark so as not to scare or upset it. Also remember this is still a shark, it does have teeth that could give you a nasty bite if you handle it insensitively. Although I have previously been a bit anti handling marine life this interaction with the angel sharks was really enjoyable and importantly the sharks didn't seem to mind either. The dive guides on the boat didn't know these angel sharks were here so they don't get interfered with by divers that often. I also found some Californian scorpionfish and flatfish in the sand too. We ascended decompressing up the rock face, looking at gorgonians, lobsters, various gobies, gopher rockfish and sheephead wrasse until we reached the vibrant kelp forest that started at 20m.

We spent the rest of the dive in the forest playing with the Garibaldi, senorita wrasse and kelp bass. It is very pleasurable in the kelp here; just hanging in one spot admiring the changing light or swimming very slowly entwining in and viewing whatever comes by, even if it is a naughty senorita that may take a nip or two of you!

On my last dive at Ship Rock I was lucky enough to be one of the last out of the water with my buddy and magically we both looked behind to the kelp forest before getting back on the boat as Kelly the Californian sealion darted back and forth right in front of us. I can't really describe in words how graceful she looked underwater against the backdrop of greeny-yellow kelp running in the current as the suns rays penetrated through. Kelly's appearance was on cue, she had arrived at the optimum time of day. This allowed the colours in the kelp to be perfect creating one moment of exact ambience only enhancing her movement through the shallows as she glided by. This is something I always wanted to see and it was most excellent.

Carina Hall, PADI Divemaster

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