December 11, 2010
Point Lobos Dive Profile
Often called "the crown jewel of the State Park System," Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is one of Northern California's most beautiful and diverse dive sites.
Point Lobos is located in Monterey County, three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. It opens daily at 8 am and closes a half hour after sunset. An entrance fee of $10 per vehicle ($50 per van or small coach) and $10 per diver is charged.
Two-diver teams are allowed to dive Whalers and Bluefish Coves by reservation only. Check the dive calendar before making your reservation to identify which days are available. If you don't make your reseravation several weeks in advance, good luck. Spots fill up quickly. For those of you who don't heed my advice and chose instead to show up at Point Lobos without a reservation only to be turned away, try Monastary Beach just North of Point Lobos. Worth noting is that reservations aren't transferable or refundable.
On Nov. 24, my brother Garrett and friend Tim dove Whalers Cove. Two days earlier, a storm tore through Northern California. That morning though, we were greeted by sunny skies as we pulled into the parking lot. At the end of the parking lot, there's a staircase that leads to a lookout. I recommend every diver survey Point Lobos and plan their dive from this lookout before entering the water. Despite the sunny skies, three to six foot swells crashed into pinnacles just outside Whalers Cove, sending white wash exploding into the sky. To dive safely, we had to dive well away from the pinnacles or risk being thrown into them.
I love diving Point Lobos. But there's one thing I dislike about it--the surface swim. Without a DPV or boat, divers must surface swim roughly 50 yards from the entry point to the South-West point of Whalers Cove before descending because the visibility is often poor in the cove. During the summer, the surface swim can be a pain due to the increased kelp. That doesn't bother me though. What does is being exposed on the surface, where I'm vulnerable to great white sharks. I know, I know. I've read the statistics and I know how unlikely being attacked by a shark is. However, that's probably what Marco Flag was thinking on June 30, 1995, when he was attacked by a great white shark at Blue Fish Cove--the cove adjacent to Whalers Cove. Fortunately, Marco wasn't injured because the shark's jaws clamped down on his tank and a box attached to the front of his weight belt. While I'll likely never see a great white shark outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I still like to limit the time I spend on the surface.
After returning from the lookout, we emptied our gear from the car onto two picnic benches. Unlikle Lover's Point and Breakwater, Point Lobos has no grass and the parking lot is comprised of dirt. I recommend divers place their gear on the picnic tables to keep everything clean. While gearing up, an old man walked by us and said, "You're getting into the water. Little cold. Hope you don't die." I thought to myself... not exactly what you want to hear before a dive.
A few minutes later, we entered the water. We surface swam out to the South-West Point, made sure there was no kelp below us, took a compass heading off the pinnacles, then descended. "Crap," I thought to myself as I sunk to the bottom. Less than five feet of visibility, less than one minute into the dive and I've already lost sight of Garrett. Needless to say, conditions were less than stellar. A minute of two later, and we were all back together. Our plan was to swim on the compas heading to the pinnacles along a sand channel, then turn around on our recipracle and head back. Surge was stronger than expected, kicking up walls of sand.
Ten minutes later, we'd descended to 45 ft., the temprature was dropping and conditions hadn't improved. That's when we decided to head South, rathern than proceeding West along the sand channel. We hoped that conditions were better inside the kelp beds along the point. It was a gamble we're all glad we took. Five minutes later we entered the kelp beds just outside Whalers Cove and we're rewarded with nearly 40 ft. of visibility. We spotted a five-foot long leapord shark, which appeared out of nowhere, then slowly swam in between the kelp stocks and out of sight. We also stumbled across a wolf eel hunting in the open. I'd never seen a wolf eel before, and was surprised by it's size--about four feet long and stocky in comparison to a moray eel.
Nearly an hour later, we reluctantly surfaced. On our surface swim back, we each enthusiastically recounted our favorite parts from the dive. Despite poor conditions initially, it turned out to be another great Point Lobos dive.
Here's the video from our dive:
Posted by jroualdes at December 11, 2010 12:32 AM