The West Coast of the USA comprises most of California, Oregon and Washington. Although not coastal states, Arizona and Nevada are often included due to their proximity to the Pacific Coast. Here's the map.
California is primarily known for the glitz of Hollywood, the fun of Disneyland, the surfing beaches, the great cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, but not really as a diving destination, although it does have a lot to offer the scuba diver.
The Channel Islands are a popular place to dive. These are a string of islands that run south from Los Angeles to San Clemente. On Santa Catalina Island, there is a sheltered side, which offers the best visibility of up to 80 feet and here you can see the bright orange Garibaldi fish, which is known as the State fish.
San Diego is home to the shark diving fraternity. Also, San Francisco has some of the largest Great White Sharks in the Farallones Marine Sanctuary which vist the Farrallons for one thing, a meal of Northern Elephant seal. Watchers chum the water and cages are lowered so that divers can get eye to eye contact with a variety of sharks.
But is cage diving with sharks an ethical way to see one of the world’s protected species? Cage diving has been the subject of some passionate debates around the ethics of the practice and the argument that it forms an association with the sharks between boats (and, therefore, humans) and food. Due to concerns for both sharks and people, governments have banned shark feeding in Florida, Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, the Maldives, the Red Sea and other popular tourist destinations.
However, for centuries, fishermen have been gutting their catch on site, throwing the guts into the water around the boat and creating an instant food source for any sharks that have turned up. Saying that the cage-diving industry has created a new association for the sharks between boats and food is questionable - that's not new; it's been happening for as long as the fishing industry has existed.
However, some 'diving with sharks' trips are used to carry out research on shark behaviour and sexing the animals, others are mainly for the entertainment of tourists, although they often claim to play an educational role. There are things operators can do to minimise detrimental effects, such as limiting the number of people diving in one location, preferably outside a large radius from the coast and other areas frequented by people, and providing lessons in shark biology for diving representatives.
Get the facts and make up you own mind but, as always, make sure that you dive with a reputable operator.
[Image Source: Vanessa Lafaye]
- Kelp Forest diving in California.
- Santa Catalina island - at Ship Rock, it is possible to see the rare Angel Shark. Look closely in the sand to find them as they are incredibly well camouflaged and actually buried under it.
- San Nicolas island - reputed to be the home of the "Giant Lobster" which weigh in at up to 14 pounds. You can also dive at Begg Rock, which is the last bit of land before you reach Hawaii, where the fish life is awesome, with an array of pelagics and a ridge that drops off into the abyss.
- Santa Barbara island - for hundreds of California Sea Lions and Harbor Seals who will join you on your dive.
- San Clemente island - the USS Butler sits at 80 feet with lots of large fish.
- Whale watching off the California coast. Click here for what to see and when to see it!
- Due to abundance of plankton bloom during the summer period, diving is not ideal as visibility can decrease dramatically. Winter, spring and autumn are perfect for diving.
|Climate:||Mediterranean in south; mild and humid in the north|
|Natural hazards:||Occasional earthquakes|
|Diving season:||Year round|
|Water temperature:||12-18C (53F-64F) for California|
|Air temperature:||18-35C (64F-95F) for California|