Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

San Diego diving recommendations

A member of my dive club, Oceanblue Divers, solicited questions about scuba diving in San Diego on the club's message board. Being an avid scuba diver and a San Diego native, I didn't hesitate to offer my recommendations. Since my comments could be useful for others interested in San Diego diving, I thought I'd repost them here.

Boat Diving
Generally, there are three areas where dive operators do day trips: Wreck Alley, Point Loma Kelp Beds and Los Coronados. Wreck Alley is a short, 15-minute ride from Mission Bay, where the dive op I've always used in the past (Dive Connections) is located. In Wreck Alley, you'll find the Yukon, a very large Canadian destroyer, as well as several other fun wrecks, including the strawberry anemone-covered Ruby E.

The Point Loma Kelp Beds are an area I am disappointed to admit I've never dived, though I've criss-crossed over the lush and thick beds countless times on boats topside. I've done warm and cold water diving, everything from the fish-filled waters of Bonaire to the murky depths of the Northeast, and my favorite diving hands-down is kelp forest diving. Anyone who went on our Channel Islands trip last fall will describe the kelp forests with glassy-eyed wonder.

If you do only one boat dive in San Diego, Los Coronados is the must-do. You're almost guaranteed to share the water with tens of sea lions, who will buzz you and maybe even take a love nibble on your snorkel. They're very playful, and will keep you company through most of the dive (till they get bored, anyway). Here's a trip report from my first trip out there.

Shore Diving
On thing that San Diego—and SoCal in general—has in abundance is good shore diving. In San Diego, most shore divers find their way to La Jolla. The entire bay around La Jolla is a protected underwater preserve, and there's plenty to see. If you enter in or around La Jolla Cove, the underwater topography consists of reefs covered in eel grass, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore (and the ubiquitous garibaldi). And you can also explore kelp forests (keep your eyes open for giant sea bass) and some shallow caves.

La Jolla Shores, where most Open Water checkout dives are done, is all sandy bottom, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to see. You'll find countless sting rays (and the occasional halibut) on the bottom, and during summertime, you'll see hundreds of leopard sharks and guitarfish in the shallows. There are also vast beds of sand dollars, and you can explore the rim of (and descend partly into, but watch your depth) La Jolla Canyon, an offshoot of Scripps Canyon, both of which go down several thousand feet. Near the rim, you're likely to see bat rays (watch for clouds of silt, as they burrow into the sand looking for food).

Beyond San Diego
If you have the time and inclination, board a boat out of Long Beach (the Sundiver is a good one I've been on several times) and take a day trip out to Catalina. The visibility and marine life offshore will be much better than what you'll see inshore. Or, if you want to stick to shore, there are some great dive spots in Orange County (Shaw's Cove is one of my favorites).

If you're a scuba diver with other San Diego diving suggestions, please post a comment!

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Anonymous terence - scuba Florida said...

Great posting Michael. It's always great to hear an enthusiastcic diver sharing his experiences with the rest of us

June 30, 2008 5:31 AM  

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