I'd been wanting to visit Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California since moving here. I had visions in my head of taking a boat over to this wild place where Buffalo/Bison roam free and there are species/subspecies (of plants, birds, mammals) that exist only on the island - for example, the Santa Catalina Island Fox.
I'd recently finished reading a T.C. Boyle novel (When the Killing's Done) which takes place on the Channel Islands - although not Santa Catalina - and focuses on how introduced species can devastate an island population because they are usually so isolated and have only a small set of predators (if any). Here's some info from wikipedia about the Santa Catalina Island Fox:
"Because the island fox is isolated, it has no immunity to parasites and diseases brought in from the mainland and are especially vulnerable to those the domestic dog may carry. A canine distemper outbreak in 1998 killed approximately 90% of Santa Catalina Island's fox population."
|Tim Coonan/NPS (http://nationalzoo.si.edu)|
Pros of taking off from Marina del Rey as opposed to many others which leave from Newport Beach or Long Beach: more time on the water (about 1.5 hours) so more potential of seeing dolphins, whales, etc., shorter drive. Cons: more time on the water so more time for sea sickness(!), a single arrival and departure time allowing little flexibility and possibly also less time on the island.
The longer boat ride paid off. Halfway there we spotted a whale and it turned out to be a Blue Whale! The largest known mammal to have ever existed! We saw 5 or 6 huge breaths (blow) and then the back come out of the water followed by the HUGE tail (fluke)! Really an amazing sight. Passed a couple of pods of dolphins as well.
|No whales or dolphins in this photo - wasn't quick enough|
When we arrived at 11am we ate and then walked up to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. It's a 1.5 mile walk up a paved/dirt road passing a gold course and ball park. Since it's in a canyon, the hills around are beautiful. We saw woodpeckers and hummingbirds and even some deer. However, our enjoyment was considerable lessened by the constant golf carts zipping by, disrupting the quiet and leaving a trail of gas fumes in their wake. It felt more developed even than many parts of Malibu. The Gardens were nice but very cultivated (as was to be expected).
|View from the base of the monument|
We headed back to the harbor and then over to Descanso Beach where the staff person at the Conservancy office said we might find some tide pools - although he also mentioned they don't have many in Avalon.
The low tide was around 2:30pm and we made it there just shortly after. I took off to explore this rocky area bordering on Hamilton Cove but found little besides some crabs, limpets and barnacles. Still, it was nice to be out of sight of all the tourists and the music streaming from the Descanso Beach club.
|Striped Shore Crab|
|Hey! Good idea. :)|
At that point, it was time to walk back over to the harbor, get something to eat and leave.
It was a perfectly nice day, but a bit cheesy for my tastes. I would have enjoyed a day in Malibu just as much. Of course, no Blue Whale sightings from Malibu!
If I go back I'll try to use another ferry service that leaves earlier in the day and goes directly to Two Harbors (the other small town on the island which I hear is less developed) or get my act together to go kayaking or even camp overnight. Lesson learned (and transmitted to my readers :)