In August Ellen and I visited the Channel Islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California between Santa Barbara and Ventura.
We arranged with Island Packers to transport us to the islands. They have been running boats out to the islands for over 30 years.
The first trip was a day visit to Anacapa Island. We departed from Oxnard Harbor at 9:30 AM.
We crossed to the island in about 1.5 hours. Along the way we saw several pods of common dolphins. They zipped over to the boat and "surfed" the bow wave. As we looked over the rail they were just feet away. As they escorted us, the naturalist on board told us about them. The boat sees dolphins on half of their crossings. When we arrived at the island we went to the far end of the three island chain to North harbor.
Anacapa island is the main breeding ground for brown pelicans. At north harbor there were dozens of young pelicans. We then made our way to the harbor and dock at the south end of the island. Along the way we passed some of the dozens of coastal sea caves along the island. Visitors can sea kayak into many of these caves and climb in others.
We landed at a dock on the east end of the island.
There were a lot of stairs to climb to get up onto the plateau above. Some of the visitors took rest breaks at the landings. Others clutched the railings after noticing the exposure. Ellen walked right up.
Once on the plateau a ranger guide introduces you to the island and takes you to a picnic area where you learn the history of the island as you eat lunch. After lunch its off for a guided tour of the island. Ellen and I launched out on our own exploring every trail.
The island is home to the giant coreopsis, which is dormant in the summer but full of bright flowers in the spring, we'll have to return to Anacapa island in the spring to see it in full bloom. There were forests of giant coreopsis on the island, when you are standing in such a forest you feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, you know for sure you are in a very strange place on this earth.
At the far end of the island there is a fine view of the other two islands that make up Anacapa. The most distant island is a reserve set aside to allow the brown pelican to breed.
We walked back from the end of the island through a colony of gulls. Many unfledged chicks stared at us as we passed nearby on a trail.
We descended the stairs to the visitor reception area where they had a live television program broadcast by divers at the bottom of the bay. It was superbly done. The live divers pointed out the life forms in the bay and answered questions from the visitors. If you turned around to look down at the water you could see the bubbles from the divers as they did the program.
Behind us the bay water looked clear and clean. I also knew it was cold. The next time I'll have to bring a wetsuit plus my mask and snorkel and take an underwater tour of the bay.
As we left the island our boat took us around the arch which is a symbol of Channel Islands National Park.
Anacapa is definitely worth a day trip. The next time I visit I'll try to see it in the spring when the coreopsis are in bloom, I'll also bring my snorkeling gear.
Go To West Santa Cruz island.
Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty
27 Sep 2000