All posts by Alisa Vinzant

Toyon Bay Safari Animals

If you are slightly familiar with Catalina Sea Camp, you have most likely heard of our friendly neighborhood bison. But there are so many other species of animals that call Toyon Bay home. Every week, we welcome circa 200 campers to invade the bay and to have one of the best weeks of their summer. I wanted to take a look at the more permanent residents of the bay.

 

BISON

Bison Bison

The bison is not native to Catalina Island. In 1924, a filming company decided to take advantage of the beauty of Catalina Island to film the movie “The Vanishing American” there. Then someone on the crew decided that they simply must have bison there in order to enhance the movie. They paid to have these bison shipped over to the island, they filmed the movie, and then they shipped off—without the bison. Now, this massive animal has made the island its home, and sometimes makes trips down to camp to say hello.

animals

Photograph by: Ashley Hann

SEA STAR

Asteroidea

My only encounter with sea stars had been watching the talkative one in Finding Nemo. Then one day, I joined a group of campers on a snorkel, and our instructor dove down and found one. I watched, just as fascinated and intrigued as the 10 and 11 year olds, as our instructor showed us the creature. She later told me that she was worried about the stress level of the sea star, which when risen, can cause their limbs to fall off. A common party trick for sea stars and other aquatic creatures, this defense mechanism can occur without killing the sea star due to its regenerative nature.

animals sea star

SEA LIONS

Zalophus californianus

We’ve seen them on scuba diving trips, kayaking trips, blue water boat trips, around our float during the evening hours, and even on our beach a time or two. These babies can grow up to 800 pounds, but can cruise through the water at up to 25 miles per hour. If you have never seen one of these creatures move through the water, go to YouTube and spend some time researching. It’s nothing short of magic.

animals sea lion

Photograph by: Ashley Hann

LEOPARD SHARKS

Triakis semifasciata

So my boss told me that we would probably see sharks my first time snorkeling here in the bay (also my first time snorkeling ever). As prepared as she made me to face these lurking masses, I still had to force myself to breathe normally when I first saw its shadow about six feet away from me. Since then, I have probably seen a hundred of these guys, and I am now proud to say that I have touched one (in a closely monitored touch tank here in camp, but still). In reality, these sharks are fairly harmless. They are bottom feeders, so their mouths are towards the bottom of the sea floor; meaning bites to humans are difficult and thus uncommon.

animals shark

Photograph by: Gretchen Beehler

GARIBALDI

Hypsypops rubicundus

These bright orange little fish are all over our bay. They’re territorial little buggers, but they also make for a beautiful pop of color. Garibaldis are protected in California because they are the state marine fish. Some people say these fish can be trained to do a back flip, but I have only ever heard of one specific garibaldi that can do it.

 

animals garibaldi

Photograph by: Ashley Hann

FOXES

Urocyon littoralis catalinae

One of the first nights here I saw a stray cat near me. Nostalgic for my cat at home, I beckoned for it to come close to me and love me. After attempting and failing for longer than I care to admit, the creature ran away, and I realized that the animal I was trying to snuggle was a wild fox. The Catalina Island Fox is threatened specie of fox. It is registered with the Conservancy program on the island, which has been working since 2004 to bring population levels back up to normalcy. In 2004, there were just over 300 foxes on the island. As of 2017, over 2,000 foxes have been reported. Despite the work done and the accomplishments of the initiative, this fox remains threatened, and efforts will not cease.

Joel Sartore, a National Geographic award winning photographer featured the Catalina Island Fox in his photo project on endangered species, entitled the Photo Ark. Check it out here!
https://www.joelsartore.com/keyword/catalina-island-fox/

CASI, WRIGLEY, COCO, AND GOLDIE

Canis lupus familiaris

The most dangerous animals on the island—rock-fetching retrievers. These four pooches belong to our longstanding admin in the bay. You can follow Casi’s life here on her very own Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/casi_at_cimi/). All four of them have a very stressful life of unlimited affection and belly rubs, wide-open spaces to frolic and play, and all the rocks to fetch in the ocean that they could ever want. There are no signs that these animals will become endangered anytime soon, but I’ll keep you updated.

These are only a few of the most common fauna here in Toyon Bay, and I, for one, look forward to many more run-ins with these incredible animals.

SOURCES:

https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=wildlife&p=recovery_of_the_catalina_island_fox

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/c/california-sea-lion/?beta=true

Now For the Americans

So, yes, we have a lot of staff from around the globe, but we also have staff from all over this country. We have staff from 23 out of the 50 states. That is 46% of the United States that is represented here at Catalina Sea Camp. This can ensure that we have the highest quality staff. After all, competing against candidates from all over the country adds a taste of competition that can only lead to the best staff out there.

Americans

While our largest population comes from California (no surprise there), we also have staff from New York, Texas, Georgia (Go Dawgs!), and so many more. Our farthest staff friend comes all the way from New Hampshire.

Americans 1

The variety of home states is also important to our campers. Every single week we have a team of counselors who pick up campers from the airport, allowing kids from all over the country (and the world) to come to Catalina Sea Camp. Even though being thousands of miles away from home can be intimidating as a camper, our staff knows what that feels like and can relate to the campers on an individual level. If you’re one of those lucky campers, look out for Kyle and Hailey, they’ll be meeting you at the airport, and getting you here for the best week or three weeks of your summer!

CCUSA: It’s Camp Counselors USA and We Love It!

Hey SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD it’s me, Dori! I am the social media coordinator at Catalina Sea Camp this summer!

CCUSA Dori

I thought I was going to be the weirdo all the way from the other side of the country. After all, I endured a five-hour plane ride all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, to be here. Then I found out that some people here had a five-hour layover on their 15 HOURS flight across nations and oceans—suddenly Georgia seemed just a hop and a skip away from here.

My slight southern accent fades to irrelevance in the wake of the Australian and New Zealand accents here. Is Catalina Sea Camp just that famous? Is it known all over the Earth? Do people from the far reaches of the planet clamor for the opportunity to work here?

Maybe or maybe not.

Catalina Sea Camp is a sponsor for an organization called CCUSA— Camp Counselors USA. This program works with the US Department of State to facilitate international opportunities for young people to work at camps all over the globe. Catalina Sea camp hosts 6 of these adventurers. Let’s meet these incredible people!

CCUSA GI

Gi

You’ll see her cooking up some shrimp or bicycling her way to ice cream this summer.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Plans for after camp: Exploring the west coast for two months, making her way to Canada and eventually to Hawaii.

“Most of this stuff here have been firsts for me—this whole environmental and things I’ve been doing. It’s cool to just take it on and go headfirst into it all and know people that are returners, but also knowing that there are new people here too. It’s teamwork on a different level, and everyone offers a hand or does what they can to help.”

CCUSA Sam

 

Sam

Even though he’s an avid surfer outside of camp, he’ll be filling his time with skit performances, crazy costumes, and camp songs this summer instead.

Hometown: Kaiapoi, New Zealand

Plans for after camp: Visiting family in Seattle, traveling the west coast of America. Planning to visit San Francisco because of the city’s aesthetics and film history.

“This place has similar traits to my favorite place in the world—Malborough Sounds. It’s disconnected from the rest of the world.”

Brian

Pursuing his masters in education, Brian is taking the summer off to experience education in a different environment.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Plans for after camp: Traveling for six weeks through America and Canada, specifically the Grand Canyon and Texas.

“My field is youth, and my friend did a program in Canada, and he loved it. This is my chance to see America and also have a break from university.”

CCUSA Anna

Anna

Working as the surf instructor, Anna gets the chance to shred the gnar with some first time surfers this summer.

Hometown: Tuross Head, Australia

Plans for after camp: To Indiana to visit a friend she met last year at Catalina Sea Camp, and then wherever she wants for the next month.

“I loved it—the island, the people I worked with. I made lots of new friends and did lots of things outside my comfort zone.”

CCUSA Olivia

Olivia

She may be missing whale season to work here, but she’d rather be here, spending time teaching kids about the ocean.

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Plans for after camp: Working on the Great Barrier Reef on Lady Elliot Island

“This place has such good community. We’re one big family. And I have the best boss in the whole world, Jeff.”

CCUSA Ben

Ben

Already having spent two summers here, he was appointed Crew Chief for this third summer at Catalina Sea Camp.

Hometown: Dunedin, New Zealand

Plans for after camp: Traveling the United States and the world

“Being able to be Crew Chief this year has allowed me to be challenged in new ways, that’s why I came back.”

Spotlight – Advanced Climb & Kayak

Often at Sea Camp we see instruction emphasized through activities, experiences, and interactions; Advanced Climb/Kayak is no different. Instructor Ryan (Photographed with instructor Nick) spoke on his instruction of the course explaining that the aim is to challenge students through rigorous physical activities and experience incredible views of the natural beauty of the areas surrounding Toyon Bay. As a native of Kentucky, Ryan spent his youth hiking through the backwoods of the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains and spending time on the water at Kentucky Lake. His experience prepared him to meet the challenge of leading such a multifaceted experience for our campers.

climb kayak

Students can look forward to two diverse challenges through the course: first on the water, and later tackling some of the challenge walls at Sea Camp’s very own rock wall. Out on kayaks, campers are able to participate in challenge-by-choice activities, which urge campers to stand up on their kayaks, walk to the bow of them, and balance during headstands and dances atop them. These challenges add an element of fun to learning the best ways to balance and paddle through the water – a first for many campers! As part of the climbing portion of the class, campers take on some of the challenge walls aptly named Chuck Norris, Chupacabra, and The Beast. Campers seeking additional challenges can opt into new restrictions like blindfolds or using only one arm.climb kayak 1

Advanced Climb/Kayak sets out to help campers explore activities outside of the conventional by challenging them beyond what is expected. These opportunities to go beyond what they thought possible are what help campers grow, both personally and together as a team. Instructors like Ryan are at the forefront of it all, encouraging campers through experience and making the most of activities through thinking outside of the box.

Spotlight – Rescue Dive

Did you know you can become a NAUI-certified Rescue Diver at Catalina Sea Camp? Dive programming at Catalina Sea Camp covers a host of diverse activities and skill sets, both to encourage divers to explore the underwater world around Catalina Island and to educate divers to become better equipped to handle the challenges of this extreme sport.

rescue dive campers

One of the courses that campers enjoy is Rescue Dive. Led by NAUI Dive Instructors here at Sea Camp, the rescue diver course serves to educate campers about first-aid procedures in dive-specific circumstances. The course covers both skin diving and SCUBA diving and ranges from the classroom setting to the water, allowing for campers to apply their training in real-life simulations.

rescue dive matt

Matt Menninger leads the current Rescue Dive course, helping a small group of students learn the ins and outs of rescue diving. The opportunity for divers to learn these skills not only allows for them to be more confident underwater, but also gives them peace of mind when diving with others in all kinds of conditions. Ultimately, Rescue Dive is just one of many great opportunities for campers to stretch their skills to new levels, equipping them to make the most of future adventures, and stay safe in the midst of ever-evolving challenges.

rescue dive card

Have fun, Rescue Divers!

Spotlight – Diving at Catalina Sea Camp

Snorkeling and diving are some of the most awesome experiences campers can immerse themselves in at Catalina Sea Camp. Peach and her dive team are something special to watch. As certified NAUI Dive Masters and Instructors, they offer unique opportunities for campers to encounter nature through adventurous underwater explorations at Sea Camp. She and her team of experienced dive instructors generate excitement and awe through helping campers access a world that is often times completely new to them. Campers often share first-time experiences with their friends, whether it’s the first time they get to touch a sea hare during a snorkel session, or learning how to breathe underwater during Basic SCUBA courses.

dive

For Junior Sea Campers, these programs look like everything from exciting dive-deck demos to opportunities to experiencing these organisms up close and personal on group snorkels. For the Senior Sea Camp programs the curriculum deepens, allowing campers to explore SCUBA through incremental courses that improve dive skills, stress safety, and encourage creativity through photo or video of our underwater world here at Toyon Bay and around the island.

diving

While adventure and education are main focuses for Peach and her team, safety is always at the forefront of courses and activities on the dive deck and in the water. The unique opportunity for campers to practice diving in Toyon’s private bay and have the flexibility to travel across Catalina on our Discovery barge to places like the Avalon Dive Park and Lover’s Cove to see other unique ecosystems is a one-of-a-kind experience for dive students.

The Adventure of Science Spotlight

Science and Adventure at Catalina Sea Camp is about more than just education – it’s about experience, interaction, and challenges. Campers that come to Catalina Sea Camp get awesome opportunities to experience more than conventional courses in science when they come to Toyon Bay, as Jeff Chace and his team work day in and day out to provide opportunities for campers to go beyond the textbook to experiencing science first hand at our Plankton, Algae, and Fish Labs as well as in our Marine Mammal Hall and through experiences traveling across the island in Catalina Explore and Adventure classes.

Science adventure

Campers in our one-week programs have the opportunity to experience our ocean firsthand by collecting plankton samples to view under the microscope and feeling invertebrates and sharks in our touch tanks. In the three-week programs campers explore Catalina to study endemic species and experience the beauty of Sea Camp’s surroundings.

Science adventure 1

Through opportunities to adventure, campers participate in activities ranging from archery and the giant swing to rock climbing and stand-up paddle boarding. Activities are dictated by challenge by choice, where campers push themselves to their own personal limits in a safe environment. Regardless of what campers are doing on any given day, Science and Adventure staff make it their mission to engage campers, through sharing the incredible beauty of the nature surrounding Toyon and by encouraging campers to push themselves beyond what they thought possible.

This Week’s Spotlight: Sailing at Toyon Bay Yacht Club

Sailing with the Toyon Bay Yacht Club, or TBYC for short, is a quintessential part of the Catalina Sea Camp experience.  From the ‘yachties’ who run activities in the yacht club to the courses taken out on the open water learning to sail single and double hull crafts, the Yacht Club embodies more than just the opportunities for campers to learn to sail. When campers come to the Yacht Club they can be anyone they want. As part of the opening ceremonies out on the yacht deck, campers choose ‘Sail Names’ that are often goofy, sometimes part of the campers past, and always solidified as their new identity over the course of the next few days learning to sail. They then write these sail names on miniature sails to be hung in the roof of the Yacht club, next to those of past campers and amidst memorabilia commemorating the rich, warm history of decades of past yachties. The whole experience is unique for campers, encouraging a light-hearted experience in the midst of challenging learning experiences.

sailing

At the helm of the whole enterprise is Cupcake (pictured above), who has spent the last two years as director of the Yacht Club and the last five years as part of its staff (in case you hadn’t guessed, that’s her Sail Name). She picks only the best sailors for her team, looking at a combination of personality and experience to ensure that not only the courses are successful, but also that the experience as a whole is an amazing chance for campers to come and be a part of something special for their time here at camp.

sailing 2

The Toyon Bay Yacht Club encourages campers to be themselves, to learn out on the open water, and relax in good company on the sunny Yacht Deck or in the shady Yacht Club. By pairing together time spent out on the open water and time spent in the unique atmosphere of the yacht club, Cupcake and her team work to ensure that campers can have an incredible, memorable summer.  

Art

Spotlight: Art Shack

Art

Art Shack is the perfect place for imagination and exploration here at Catalina Sea Camp. To exert the body in adventures out on the water is one thing – to work out your mind, getting creative and imaginative, is another! Art Shack is a place where Junior Sea Campers can become superheroes and warriors, and where senior sea campers can connect through crafting together.

Art 2

At the helm of the Art Shack, and part of this week’s spotlight, is Keira, an instructor truly fit for the ideas that spring from the canvas, construction paper, glitter and paint that find their home on the art Shack’s packed shelves. During the year, Keira is busy working as a costume designer in Massachusetts and New York City, but when summer comes around, she heads to Sea Camp to lead campers in bringing to life their most creative ideas.art k

Art Shack has a long history at Sea Camp, as art has always been a part of camp curriculum. The current Art Shack has been a haven for students on the hill for the past 20 or so years. And in that time, instructors like Keira have been guiding students in their creative endeavors. Every lesson starts with a creative idea, perhaps imagining what superpowers one might choose, or who and what one would defend as a knight in the Middle Ages. What is awesome about Art Shack, though, is the reflective takeaways Keira works into the lessons. Superheroes defend those in harm’s way, and knights represent gallantry and chivalry, and these ideas are turned into food for thought for the campers. Questions can be powerful in these times of reflection. Often these activities spur questions like, “what kind of knight’s ideals do I want to live out in my own life? Who can I defend on a day to day basis?” Or, “what is important to me to work towards in life?” These ideas are massive subjects for anyone to take on, but when they are packaged in the form of a creative activity, campers and counselors alike both have great fun in crafting and take away something deeper.

Art

Art Shack is part and parcel of the balance we strive to seek here at Sea Camp of pushing our bodies to adventure and encouraging our minds to grow. Keira also strives for Art Shack to be a place of reflection and rest in the midst of the packed schedule that encourages campers to make the most of every moment. In doing so, she ensures campers are refreshed and ready to take on new challenges when they step onto the deck of the Art Shack.

WELCOME TO THE SEA CAMPER BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Sea Camp is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at minimum a Bachelors Degree in Marine Science or related subject. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.catalinaseacamp.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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