This year, Scuba Diver Life is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to bring you images and stories from each of the United States’ 11 dive-able marine sanctuaries. This month, we bring you to Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
For more than 40 years, national marine sanctuaries have protected special places in America’s oceans and Great Lakes waters, from the Hawaiian Islands to the Florida Keys, from Lake Huron to American Samoa. Backed by one of the nation’s strongest pieces of ocean-conservation legislation, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the sanctuaries seek to preserve the extraordinary beauty, biodiversity, historical connections and economic productivity of our most precious underwater treasures. And — lucky for you — most of these places are accessible to recreational divers. Sanctuary waters are filled with unique ecosystems. They harbor a spectacular array of plants, animals and historical artifacts, all waiting to be explored. National marine sanctuaries belong to everyone, so dive in.
Cover image credit: Chuck Graham
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Where in the world can you navigate a swaying kelp forest, come face-to-face with an inquisitive sea lion, or investigate an historic shipwreck? Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary offers these underwater experiences and more. The cool waters surrounding the five California Channel Islands are home to some of the world’s best diving. The sanctuary’s network of nearshore marine reserves and collaboration with Channel Islands National Park ensures that these protected waters retain their natural beauty and amazing array of animal life.
Just a few hours west of Los Angeles and south of Santa Barbara, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary teems with life. Swim through the sanctuary’s giant undersea forests and you never know what you might spot. The lush kelp surrounding these islands is home to spiny lobster, feisty garibaldi, vibrant anemones, giant sea bass and more. Come closer to shore and investigate a mysterious sea cave. Or, go further out to sea for a chance to spot gray whales, humpback whales and common dolphins.
Wreck divers will be impressed as well. From prehistory to modern times, maritime cultures have used the Channel Islands waters for everything from finding food to waging war. Between 1850 and 1900, at least 33 ships wrecked while navigating the Santa Barbara Channel. Many of these shipwrecks are accessible to divers at a variety of depths. Explore the wreck of Winfield Scott, which sank off the shore of Anacapa Island in 1853. Swing over to Santa Cruz Island to investigate the wreck of a World War II Navy Grumman Guardian AF-2W.
You’ll find the best diving within the sanctuary near Anacapa, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara Islands. Here, protected coves and clear water offer spectacular visibility. Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands are often extremely windy. Only those with plenty of experience and the right gear should dive here. No matter where you plan to dive, learn about ocean etiquette and safety in national marine sanctuaries beforehand.
Family or friends may prefer to stay above the water. Stop by one of the Channel Islands visitor centers, rent a kayak or join a whale-watching tour.
Experience the wonders of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and other national marine sanctuaries via our photos, and see more here.
By guest writer Elizabeth Weinberg, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.