Kayaking at Channel Island Harbor - June 2012

If you read my last post you noticed that the day's adventure ended with the death of my car. I wanted to decide on another (potentially new) car wisely so I took my time and just last week, after 5 weeks without a car, I finally bought one. Now the summer adventures can begin!

During the time without my own car I was able to borrow T's and do some kayaking in the Oxnard area with Channel Islands Kayak Center. I had a Groupon for a 2 hour History & Wildlife Tour. I paid $35 for a tour that normally costs $80.

Here's where I was:

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When I was considering buying the Groupon, I reviewed their description and the words "sea cave" jumped out at me. I pictured a protected cove where we'd kayak amongst the advertised aquatic wildlife which included dolphins and sea lions and I was in. Also, just the "Channel Islands" in their name drew me in since I've been hoping to visit those islands.

First of all, I hadn't realized just how far the harbor was (60 miles) and how long it would take me to get there (2 hours!) so I ended up being a full 30 minutes late for the 2 hour tour. I expected to be turned away when I arrived or having to just rent a kayak on my own, but they got me right into the water and I was able to meet up with the tour, only missing the lesson (which I didn't need anyway).

After the 2 hour drive looking at the clock and odometer every 2 seconds wondering if I'd make it on time, being in the kayak was divine.

 Unfortunately, in my excitement to see sea caves I'd overlooked the words "new" and "in harbor" before "sea cave" on their website. It turned out to be a concrete area in the harbor where kayakers could practice the manoeuvring needed if exploring the sea caves on the islands of Anacapa and Santa Cruz (which are the other tours offered by Channel Islands Kayak Center). This tour, the one I was on, turned out to be completely in-harbor. Not unlike the time I'd rented a kayak in Marina del Rey, just a 20 minutes drive from home!

Alright, enough whining about the drive . . .

There were some things that I'd probably never see in Marina del Rey, like these humungous sea stars! The tour guide told us that the sea stars get huge in the area because of the super clean waters and abundance of food. I didn't understand how huge he was talking until we saw them. There were super large ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceous), which are the kind you see the most in tide pools,

Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceous) wrapped around a rock
 but those weren't as impressive as these ones:

Giant Sea Star (Pisaster giganteus)
I believe this is my first time seeing a Giant Sea Star (Pisaster giganteus) and what a giant it was! We were there during the lowest tide of the day so there were a bunch of exposed limpets, chiton, etc. on the rocky sides along with this bat star:

Bat Star (Patiria miniata)
I'd never thought to combine kayaking with tide pooling but I suppose it's the only way to get out to some tidal pools.

We also saw pelicans and cormorants, but no marine mammals. Not sure it was worth $80 or driving so far, but definitely worth the $35 I paid. Driving out to the end of Malibu on the PCH is also a treat because you pass beautiful coastline like this:

In the end, I'd say if you're looking to get away from LA a trip to Channel Island kayak center is a great idea. Just allow enough time to wander around the area before or after. Consider visiting McGrath State Beach which I hear is great, especially for bird watching, but wasn't open the day I was there. Skip the Wildlife and History Tour if you've kayaked before. Just renting a kayak for an hour or two is a bit cheaper and allows more flexibility.

Next time I'll have to check out this tour to Santa Cruz Island. Who's coming?


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