Kayaking through Anacapa Island’s sea caves in Channel Island National Park, one of the most beautiful and least visited National Parks in California.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ve probably noticed how much I enjoy exploring mines, tunnels and caves. Exploring the sea caves of Channel Islands National Park has always been high on my list of things to do and I finally got my chance to scratch it off of my bucket list when I signed up for a kayaking trip out to Anacapa Island back in July.
Our day began at 8:15am on a Saturday morning in Ventura Harbor. After checking in and going over a brief introduction on kayaking, we boarded the the 53 foot “Sunfish” and made our way out to Anacapa Island.
The boats wide hull made for a calm ride, although a few people still got sick. Fortunately, there was a restroom, indoor lounge area, galley, outdoor warm water shower and a private changing room to keep everyone comfortable for the 75 minute trip out to the island.
The name Anacapa is a corruption of a Chumash word for “deception” or “mirage” or “ever-changing.” It’s a poetic name for an island that shifts its shape-becoming one isle or three and appearing long and thin or large and massive, depending on the direction of approach.
After anchoring off the front side of the Island (north facing) we geared up and prepared to board our kayaks.
The boat was equipped with an easy on and off kayak step which made for a fairly dry boarding experience.
The guides set out in groups of 5-6 tandem kayaks each.
Since I was by myself, I was a little worried about who I was going to end up sharing my kayak with. I obviously wanted someone who was in good enough shape so I wouldn’t be stuck doing all the work but I also wanted somebody who was willing to explore all the sea caves with me. My worst fear was ending up with somebody who was claustrophobic and unwilling to enter the caves.
Fortunately, I ended up sharing a kayak with Natalia, a 19-year-old kayaking pro who not only went to camp with our guide Dawn but was also hoping to become a guide herself one day.
Along with Santa Barbara Island, Anacapa was formed by volcanic eruptions between 19 and 15 million years ago. These eruptions are believed to have been caused by thinning of ocean crust as the block containing the northern Channel Islands and Santa Monica mountains was rotated clockwise by the transverse motion of the Pacific and North American plates. Lava from these eruptions can be found across the region, and in depths of up to 10,000 feet. The rocks that make up Anacapa are composed of lava, breccias, volcanic ash and cinders.
Anacapa Island, located 11 miles from the urbanized coast of Southern California, provides critical habitat for seabirds, pinnipeds such as California sea lions, and several endemic plants and animals. Great white sharks, feeding on pinnipeds, are found in the waters of the Channel Islands, including Anacapa. The island has a somewhat diverse flora, including around 150 native plants, 16 endemics (two of which are unique to the island) plus many introduced species.
The island has around 69 species of birds. The largest breeding colony of the California brown pelican in the United States, and one of the only two in California, also occurs on Anacapa Island. This is where the brown pelican has been able to recover so dramatically from near extinction in the 1970s. The islets of Anacapa also host the largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world. Western gulls begin their nesting efforts at the end of April, sometimes making their shallow nests just inches from trails. Fluffy chicks hatch in May and June and fly away from the nests in July.
Our three hour day out on the ocean consisted of exploring approximately 4 miles of the north side of the island.
The kelp forests were amazing.
But lets be honest, the main reason I came on this trip was to experience the sea caves…
…and with 6-7 of them to explore on our tour, they didn’t disappoint.
Our awesome guide Dawn did recon on each cave and let us know what to expect before we entered.
Some were easily accessible and quite large inside, while others were extremely narrow and more difficult to maneuver through.
My apologies for the blurry photos but it was a little difficult controlling the kayak while also trying to snap a decent photo while inside.
You would think spending three hours kayaking in the ocean would be draining but it actually wasn’t.
I was actually kind of bummed that our day out on the water was coming to an end.
After getting everyone back on the boat, it was time to get into to some dry clothes and enjoy the lunches we brought with us on board.
Before heading back to the mainland, the captain gave us a brief tour around East Anacapa. The white landing area is where boats dock to allow visitors access to the island for hiking & camping.
Waves have eroded the volcanic island, creating towering sea cliffs, sea caves, and natural bridges, such as forty-foot-high Arch Rock, a symbol of Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park.
The 1932 light station whose mission revival style buildings include the lighthouse, fog signal building, one of four original keeper’s quarters, a water tank building, and several other service buildings. The original lead-crystal Fresnel lens, which served as a beacon to ships until an automated light replaced it in 1990, is on exhibit in the East Anacapa Visitor Center.
It was so damn beautiful that it was hard to say goodbye.
If kayaking through sea caves has always been on your bucket list, I would highly recommend Blue Ocean Kayaking. The guides are awesome and you can often find some pretty good deals through Groupon or Living Social. Just make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a little money to tip the guides at the end of your trip.