San Diego, California
For those SCUBA enthusiasts comfortable with the tropical reef sites around the world, I recommend a trip to the southern California (San Diego) kelp forests with rocky coves, inquisitive sea lions and numerous marine mammal sightings. This is a completely different experience well worth the effort. William and I managed nine dives within four days. Be prepared to wear 7mm wetsuits, hoodies and gloves as the water below 20 feet can reach 50o F. Many of the local divers forgo the classical wetsuit and wear dry suits or a modern combined dry/wet system. The major advantage is warmth and less weight requirement for buoyancy control.
A favorite dive destination is the Coronado Islands of Mexico (passport required). Passage to these islands takes a little more than an hour (19 miles) but can be choppy due to the southern currents. We were lucky on our day with fairly flat seas. The Coronado complex is a Mexican wildlife refuge and uninhabited except for profuse wildlife on land, sea and air. Harbor seals and sea lions are frequent visitors on your dives. Water clarity is seasonal but can be up to 60 feet. Many of the dives can be done quite shallow at less than 50 feet in order to explore the rocky crevasses full of lobster, Geribaldi, Triggerfish and sea bass. Moray eels abound.
A wonderful region to Kelp dive is Pt. Loma. A variety of individual dive sites a-bound and the boat trip out from San Diego harbor is short (15-20 minutes). The forests of kelp can extend upwards for 40 feet from the sea bottom. Surface temperatures can be 70 deg F with poor visibility but once you pass through the thermocline, the visibility remarkably increases into the much colder water. Kelp can grow up to two centimeters per day but can fast die due to periods of warmer water. I highly recommend you experience the world of kelp before global warming takes further hold! A word of caution as kelp is very tough and can entangle a diver both on the surface and at depth. Offshore swells may cause disorientation as the vegetation can be very thick and moving in different directions at the same time!
A visit to San Diego would not be complete without diving or at least snorkeling La Jolla Cove. The Cove is a fine example of evolutionary interactions between Man and Harbor Seals both in the water and on land! Geographically, the cove is a beautiful protected re-entrant within a larger bay. Most of the wildlife is human on a hot, sunny weekend but the area is truly unique. Get there very early in the morning and snorkel the caves with the sea lions. Later on, walk the surrounding sandstone benches to observe the rookeries. Be forewarned, this area gets crowded and don’t overstay your parking, as tickets cost $52.00 dollars!
Recommended Dive Operator: Waterhorse Charters; http://www.waterhorsecharters.com/