Ocean Adventure

Why Scuba Diving at Catalina Island Is Unique

A camper scuba diving alongside a lobster.

The waters surrounding Catalina Island are some of the most incredible places to scuba dive. But don’t just take our word for it—this island has been ranked as one of the top 10 places to dive in the United States. 

Divers from across the country flock to this island to catch a glimpse of the diverse marine wildlife in crystalline waters. In fact, when scuba diving became accessible to the public in the 1950s, Catalina Island was one of the first major destinations. Glass-bottomed boats were even invented here so people could experience the ocean’s beauty without a tank. When planning to scuba dive on Catalina Island here are four things to get excited about.

Kelp Forests

Giant kelp thrives in the cold, clear, nutrient-rich waters of the Eastern Pacific ocean, growing up to 24 inches in one day! Seeing one of these forests is on every diver’s bucket list, and the kelp forests off the coast of Catalina Island are truly something to behold. Kelp is a nutrient-rich plant for many invertebrate marine species. Those invertebrates are a tasty food source for many vertebrates, making kelp forests a dynamic ecosystem that’s crucial to our oceans’ health. 

These dense forests also provide shelter for an abundance of marine life. So, when you go scuba diving you might bump into a fishy friend! Typically you can find garibaldi, sheepshead, moray eels, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, and more. 

Colorful Wildlife

As we hinted at earlier, the wildlife off the coast of Catalina Island is awesome. Obviously, there’s the underwater world that lives within the kelp forests. Underwater explorers can also encounter giant black seabass, moray eels, bat rays, leopard sharks, octopus, spider crabs, spiny lobster, California sea lions, barracuda, and kelp bass. 

It’s not just the animals that are amazing, the coral here is pretty spectacular too. Off the Western shores is Farnsworth Bank which is home to the rare Purple Hydrocoral. This bright purple coral is one of the few species of hard coral that exists in the cold Pacific waters. Some experts suggest that it’s unique only to this dive site.  

A camper snorkeling alongside a fish.

Catalina’s Crystalline Waters

In the summer, the water around the island can reach temperatures of 70 degrees which is like bathwater once you have your wetsuit on. Plus visibility can reach up to 100 feet! Typically, a good visibility day in any part of the ocean is only 30 feet. With such crystal blue waters, you’ll be able to see all the wildlife in and around those famous kelp forests. 

Diving with Talented & Knowledgeable Instructors

When diving in one of the most incredible places in the world you want to be with instructors who know what to look for and who love this part of the ocean. At Catalina Sea Camp and Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI), you’re paired with professional instructors who are highly trained in safety and know the waters like the back of their fins. 

Two campers using a camera underwater.

One of the many perks of Catalina Sea Camp is that you can get your diving certification at camp! Off the coast of our private beaches, we offer a wide variety of NAUI-certified scuba lessons for everyone, at any level. For new scuba enthusiasts, we offer an NAUI Open Water Scuba Diver course where campers gain their open water certification that can be used all over the world. Campers looking to grow beyond their open water certification can take advantage of our NAUI Advanced Diver, NAUI Master Diver, NAUI Rescue Diver, and NAUI Night Diver courses. In each lesson, divers build on the skills they developed in previous classes.

If you’re interested in learning more about the incredible marine biology activities and scuba diving certificates we offer for our three-week campers, please reach out! We’d love to answer any questions.