Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waiting for me! With strong swell this morning, we decided to anchor in the isthmus cove of Two Harbors. Protected from the wind and waves we set out early to kayak and hike our way around the island. Those who took to land explored not only Two Harbors but also Cat Harbor, a quick half-mile walk away from our landing. The dirt path was covered in tracks from the endemic native fox as well as the non-native bison of the island. It was amazing to watch the once endangered brown pelican fishing in the deep waters and see the vibrant garibaldi bopping around the nearshore kelp forests!
National Geographic Venture
Our day begins as we approach the fog-covered islands that make up Anacapa. This is the only Channel Island with a name derived from its native Chumash name, Anyapakh, meaning “mirage” or “ever-changing.” As the surge moved the water and fog sirens from the east end lighthouse rang, we could not agree with this description more. We explore the island along the cliffs and coastline by Zodiac. It’s heartwarming to see the number of brown pelicans in the area, knowing they faced extinction from the use of DDT just a few decades ago. We are in awe as they glide above us on their way to forage for fish below. Our Zodiac turns the corner to find rafts of curious juvenile California Sea Lions, many that approach us to get a closer look. At the same time our dive team, Katie Mills-Orcutt and Jim Coyer, explore the kelp forests right below us. They find teams of kelp forest fish, hearty lobster, and their own playful pinnipeds. One sea lion mimics Jim’s bubbles as they stare at each other on the sea floor. On our way to Santa Cruz Island, our guest speakers from the National Park Conservancy Agency, Sarah Gaines and Ryan Valdez, remind us of the diligent work and passion it took to protect and restore these islands. From the eradication of rats and grazing animals, to the marine reserves that make up over 20 percent of the coastline, these islands hold a unique window into the history and biodiversity of our national parks. We finish our afternoon at Santa Cruz Island’s, Prisoner’s cove. Many of us hike through the woodlands while others explore the restored marshland along the rocky beach. Both groups marveled over the endemic island scrub jays as they foraged through the trees in the late afternoon light. Yet another day well spent exploring the unique wildlife and ecosystems these Channel Islands have to offer.