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Monterey's Chase Point
While the entire east side of the Monterey Peninsula is one continuous dive site, experienced captains know that some anchorages offer much better divi

Naples Reef

Author  : Dale Sheckler
Location  : Santa Barbara County
Date  : January 07, 2006

Cruising along Highway 1, through Santa Barbara County, you can't help but look to the sea in wonderment. The Channel Islands are on the horizon, beckoning, but patches of kelp, near shore, will inevitably catch your eye. What lies below? How's the diving? Santa Barbara County is blessed with numerous nearshore reefs and kelp forests, but perhaps the most beautiful is Naples Reef.

There are a series of three ridges that extend like fingers roughly parallel to shore. Depths range from as deep as 70 feet along the outer edge of the outer ridge to 15 feet at the point of the shallowest ridge. Most of the kelp growth is on the upper portions. Average dive depths are around 45 feet. There are numerous overhangs, cracks and ledges. My favorite section were the mini-walls on the inside and outside of the ridges. I was able to tuck close into the wall, which towered as much as 30 feet, to avoid the effects of surge and currents.

The walls and other parts of the reef are adorned with a large variety of nudibrachs. Bright yellow sea lemons, hermissenda, and Spanish shawl are the most common. Other invertebrates include shiny chestnut cowries, feather duster worms, and rose anemones. Rose anemones always make excellent photo material with their deep, rich red color and soft texture. Small fish for photography were present, but not in great numbers.

Larger fish are present in moderate numbers. Since the El Niño kelp forest recovery of a few years back, the numbers of fair sized sheephead, rockfish and lingcod have increased. Naples Reef does have also has an excellent reputation as being a good place for spearfishers to bag a white sea bass or yellowtail in the spring and summer. Other seafood present includes an occasional scallop and lobster.

Naples Reef lies about 13 miles west or up the coast (remember: the coast runs east-west here) from the city of Santa Barbara. The reef lies offshore from an old orchard inland from Highway 1. One mile offshore, the reef gets the blessing of clear waters from offshore currents. Visibility averages 20 feet, with days of 40 feet not unusual. Another advantage of being far offshore is the increased chance of unusual encounters. On one of my dives, a mother gray whale and calf passed right over me (but I missed it, concentrating instead on photographing a tiny nudibranch).

But because it lies so far offshore, this is not a beach dive. Still, many approach the reef from shore using kayaks. Kayak divers will find turn offs along highway 1, where they can then scurry down dirt paths to an entry along a narrow sand beach.

Private boats can be launched from Santa Barbara Harbor ramp or closer, for smaller boats or kayaks, at the hoist on Goleta Pier. Camping and shore launching of inflatables and kayaks can also be done at El Capitan and Refugio State Beaches to the west. Truth Aquatics will occasionally run open boat trips to the site, or you can always charter the boat for special trip.

Locating the reef is easy with a lush kelp canopy over the rock ridges. If you can't see the kelp from the surface, however, a strong current may be running. A GPS and depth finder will help locate the reef easily.

Dive Spot At A Glance
: 13 miles west of the City of Santa Barbara, one mile offshore. GPS N34° 25.309', W119° 57.137'. (GPS coordinates for reference. Do not use as sole source of navigation.)
Access and Entry: Boat, inflatable or kayak. Small boats can be launched from pier at Goleta (805-967-1300). Inflatables can be launched from shore at Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches. Larger boats launch from Santa Barbara Harbor.
Skill level: Intermediate due to frequent currents.
Visibility: Averages 20 feet, with 40 not unusual.
Depths: 15 to 70 feet, with 45 typical dive depth.
Snorkeling: Poor; most reefs too deep.
Photography: Very good for macro. Fair for wide angle on tall ridges and in healthy kelp forest.
Hunting: A few rock scallops and lobster. Spearfishing fair. Skilled free-diving hunters can go for white sea bass and yellowtail on outer ridges.
Hazards: Boat traffic, currents.

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