Just spent … no, not spent, enjoyed 2 full days at Camp Emerald Bay, Catalina Island, with my daughter Dasha and her friend Jackie. An awesome location, fresh air, decent food, wonderful people and excellent diving. Giancarlo, whom I’ve met and dove in LA this January, presented me with an opportunity to explore and dive around the island.

Doctor's Cove. Camp Emerald
Camp Emerald Bay, Catalina Island. California

Camp Emerald Bay

Located on the west end of the Catalina, the camp sits inside of the Emerald Bay, blending nicely with the island’s flora. Upon arrival, we were briefed about the activities along with reasonable precautions in concern of wild animals. Personally I liked when the men warned us not to be in shock if we’d see bison grazing nearby. “Don’t come too close, it’s a 1-ton animal capable of running at 30 mph. So just be calm and stay as far as possible.” Can’t say we’ve seen a bison, but cats, Catalina Island foxes and a few deer paid us a visit. Activities included hiking trails, kayaking, swimming and world-class diving.

Camp Emerald Bay

Spacious lodging can sleep 8, with plenty of cabinets and drawers to pack resident’s belongings. Each room was furnished with matrasses, sweeper and a scoop.

“Outrigger” at Camp Emerald Bay

Hiking

As I was trekking through the dusty, cactus ingrown trails of Santa Catalina Island, the only thought streaming in my mind was how long Jackie and I could continue along these winding roads without taking a moment to stop and appreciate the glorious terrain and crystallized sapphire waters.

Santa Catalina Island

The beauty of this slab of land off the coast of California is truly a spectacle that tourists should take advantage of. As an “amateur hiker,” I can confidently say that the hills were not difficult to walk through. The only obstacle that my friend and I encountered was the occasional heat wave. Although some could argue that a nuisance like that can ruin a trip, I can say otherwise, as this period of time allowed her and me to take a break and enjoy the view. As we traveled further, the sight of the cascading rocks and lush kelp forests along the coast seemed more majestic. The indefinite silence, swooping seagulls, and the gentle gusts of wind sprinkled with the scent of the salty waters have evolved my definition of a genuine escape from reality that I can only find on a cliff in Catalina.

Text – courtesy of Dasha Kholodenko.

left to right; Dasha K, Jackie K

Diving

Malibu Divers managed all diving activities at Camp Emerald Bay. The owner of the Malibu Divers – Carter and his wife Barbara – turned to be very nice, attentive folks with lots of experience and willingness to help. Each excursion, lead by Malibu dive-masters, was a lot of fun and I felt extremely safe. Especially I would like to acknowledge Giancarlo, Bruce, Steward and Alex for being very patient and attentive to the guy with the camera. Thank you, guys.

In January, Giancarlo and I dove a few times at Deer Creek, Ventura, CA., and we’ve seen at very first dive the Spanish shawl, a very attractive, cobalt-blue body with orange cerata nudibranch. But for some unexplainable reason my camera malfunctioned that dive and I was unable to get any picture of that slag. So my mission was to find and to “Canonize” an elusive creature.

Doctor’s Cove

In general, all shore dives were conducted at Doctors Cove, just a minute of walking distance from the dive shop.  The site is easily accessible via a few wooden steps, leading to the 100-foot wide and a few feet deep (deepens on a tide) pebble beach.

Doctor’s Cove at Camp Emerald Bay

You can submerge immediately and navigate inside the bay with relative ease. Yet I would advise to get at least a couple of dives with those who know topography well, one can quickly get disoriented among thick and long stalk of kelp. I can tell you it is not a pleasant sensation when at one instant you think that you cleared out of the swaying vegetation and in the next moment you’ve been yanked back into the maze of the giant forest.

I’ve never seen California Bat Ray before, so I was taken aback, observing as a large, bird-like creature shot sideways right from under my belly, raising lots of sand and rendering visibility to zero. Then, when the sediment settled, I noticed a great deal of concaves formations on the sandy bottom – imprints of the Bat Ray’s resting spots. On one dive with Giancarlo and Bruce, while testing the SeaDoo sea scooter, we flew over 20 or more buried in sand animals.

Juvenile garibaldi

At Doctor’s Cove Giancarlo was able to find and point to me another gorgeous nudibranch – Chromodoris macfarlandi.

Chromodoris macfarlandi

Visibility at bay was 20-25 feet. Water temp – 64-66’F.

Ship Rock

I signed up for one boat dive and we went to the “Ship’s rock” dive site. As we approached, a seal, like a vigilant guardian, was constantly popping his head out of a water, checking out who has invaded his domain. It was too quick for my camera to capture his sudden movements. And “Ship’s Rock” is exactly where I found what I was looking for, an excellent specimen of the Spanish shawl

Spanish shawl (Flabellina iodinea)

Visibility at Ship’s Rock was 45-55 feet., with water temp – 62-68’F. It was a great dive.

Conclusion

California, and Catalina Island, particularly, opens new, bright prospects with tempting possibilities. These days, depending on the time of year, it would cost about $450-600 to get round trip from Boston to the LA. Add another hour and $20, and you are at Catalina. An island presents an amazing opportunity to any explorer, terrestrial and aquatic alike. I think visiting the Golden state will not disappoint any diver.