For more than a century, Catalina Island’s crystal clear waters have invited vacationers to explore. Whether via diving bell, glass bottom boat or scuba, eager travelers have peered beneath the surface, enthralled by what they see.
One of the reasons those amateur explorers get so excited are the vast kelp forests that nearly encircle the island. As the sun shines through the kelp forest, the light transforms into dappled amber that imbues photos and memories alike with a unique glow.
These fascinating ecosystems are home and hideout, food and foraging ground for dozens of species, from tiny kelp crabs to massive black seabass. The waters around Santa Catalina are home to two species of kelp, bull kelp and giant kelp. Both species are a type of brown algae, and grow best when the sunlight is bright and the water is cooler. Kelp is one of fastest growing organisms on the planet, capable of adding up to two feet a day when conditions are right. Anchored to the bottom via a holdfast wrapped securely around a rock, the kelp tower reaches toward the surface, thanks to gas-filled bladders that support its amber fronds. In the summer months, the kelp tends to die back, leaving large patches of detached kelp floating on the surface.
No matter what the time of year, kelp is home to fish and invertebrates, a playground for sea lions and both hideout and hunting grounds for much of the marine life that make Catalina Island their home.