Casino Point Dive Park
Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California
December 28-29, 2006
Pictures by Warren Lo © 2006
What can be said about California's Santa Catalina Island? Simply, it is an oasis in the ocean. Located just off the California cost near Los Angeles, it is a short one hour ferry ride on the Catalina Express to Avalon, Catalina's main port town. Thousands of people flock to Catalina every year to enjoy what the island has to offer. There is a ton to see and do. From seeing the sights atop the mountain to shopping in the downtown area, there is plenty to keep you busy. If you're more the adventurous type, there are a number of tours to choose from, including sea tours, jeep eco-tours, parasailing, kayak tours, and yes, scuba diving.
Right in town, there is a dive park right at Casino Point. Though I do not live in California, I am a regular visitor to the area. My good friends Ken and Jaye play tour guide and hosts when I visit. This year was my third trip to the island for some diving. For over-night stays, you can't beat the value of the Hermosa Hotel, which is where we stayed.
The site itself has a concrete stair entry which allows you to gear up and walk right in. Depending on the tide, you may have to be careful of some shallow rocks. There is also a fill station that operates right at Casino Point, though it is not always open. Fills can be obtained right on the pier in town, but it is a little bit of a walk, so a pull cart to transport tanks is highly recommended. Bring lots of quarters, as there are lockers to store away your valuables when you are diving, but it is 75 cents each time you lock up.
Inside the dive park itself, there is a ton to see. From the colourful marine life to the multitude of ship wrecks, it is a photographer's paradise. Hundreds of California's state fish, the Garibaldi, these bright orange fish can be seen scooting around the reef. As well, lots of kelp typically cover the site, growing from the sea floor to the surface. Depths within the part can get well over 100 ft, but there is lots to see at any depth, so dive planning is very flexible.
There are also a number of wrecks to visit, including the Sue-Jac, Kismet, and the Valiant, which is located just slightly out of the park boundary, so permission should first be obtained to dive the wreck. Along the way, creatures small and large can be seen, including harbour seals, octopi, fishes large and small, and nudibranchs.
Always a great trip, I will be back for more diving. Count on it!
All Photos copyright © Warren Lo, 2006