Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nature Study - Snorkeling in Laguna

The kids have been telling me all summer that they have seen leopard sharks in the water and just looking in the water a few feet in I could see them swimming around myself. I thought it was a great opportunity for snorkeling so we went and got masks and snorkels.

When we went back to see them they said the visibility wasn't good, which it wouldn't be where the waves crash. So I looked around online and found that Laguna Beach is one of the top rated places for snorkeling. While there are a lot of little coves along the coast in Laguna good for snorkeling, Divers Cove seemed to be the place for beginners so we headed there today.

Driving down Pacific Coast Highway and seeing all the restaurants, curious little shops, boutiques and art galleries along the little ocean town can be both a feel good experience as well as a sobering one. 

My husband and I used to scuba dive quite a bit when we were engaged. We did dives at Shaw's Cove and took many boat rides out of San Pedro to different points along the Coast of Catalina Island.

The kids had practiced with their mask and snorkels in the pool several times before - they practiced diving under and blowing the water out when they surface - and they still had their flippers from swim team so the only thing left was to help them over their initial reservations and get them in the water.

The waves only crashed right at the beach and once they were past them there was no white water. My husband took them out the first time and they both changed their minds and came back. He went out for about 30 minutes, talking with other snorkelers and exploring the kelp beds. The kids were bummed they hadn't gone with him.

When he came back, he took them in again and this time they stayed out. When they got out, they couldn't wait to tell me how fun it was and that I just *had* to go.

And you know, there's something about being in the mindset of a mother for so long that gave me pause about this; made me wonder if this was a good idea. I just don't venture forth into danger quite like I used to now that I'm growing towards 'maturity'. I was worried about the waves tumbling me and big animals like whales and jaws that might eat me... my kids assured me I was being completely irrational. I knew better, but decided to go out with my son.

I was using my daughter's youth sized mask and snorkel that I hadn't practiced with and headed out gripping my eight year old son's hand. All the swimmers and snorkelers had gone back to shore and we were alone out there. I could see the sandy bottom, but then there was the murkiness ahead extending into the vast Pacific where who knows what exists. I started to breath heavier, but my snorkel prevented me from taking the huge breaths I needed at that level of excitement. I kept looking around every which way *as if* seeing something would prevent it from eating me.

I immediately saw a small ray and a few small fish on the sandy bottom, but I'm not sure what they were. Then I saw a small leopard shark swim by. There! I'd snorkeled.

I told my son I was done. "What!?!" he replied. And so we swam back to shore and I took deep breaths realizing I had only been about 15-20 feet in the water. 

My kids had given it a second chance, so I thought I should too. It helped my courage quite a bit seeing an 84yo woman head out snorkeling by herself! We headed out again and this time, I was much calmer, breathed much easier and had a really great time. It really is amazing how far my mind can take me from enjoying myself sometimes!

We saw the same types of fish, I think they were white sea bass and some other schools of little fish. My daughter and I saw a shovelnose guitar fish that we followed for a while. Now we can't wait to go back and explore the kelp bed, the rocks and some of the other coves up the block also known for good snorkeling. We agreed that next time we'd attempt to touch one of the fish by diving down to it (unless it's a sculpin, lol) =) 

Here is some helpful information in case you're thinking to head out snorkeling in Laguna:

High tide was 5'4" this afternoon at Diver's Cove which came just up to the bottom of the stairs and left enough beach for our mat and umbrella to stay dry. Any higher and the beach would probably be entirely submerged so try to go at low tide.
You can check the tides at a glance by month here at Protides: http://www.protides.com/california/1788/ (Newport or San Clemente are the two closest locations)

Here's a local shop whose divers posts real diving conditions including visibility which matters when you're snorkeling: http://www.beachcitiesscuba.com/lagunaseasports/ 

Here's the marine forecast for Laguna Beach: http://www.weather.com/outlook/recreation/boatandbeach/weather/tenday/92651?from=36hr_outlet_boat 

Here's a surf forecast for South OC: http://www.surfline.com/surf-spots-breaks/southern-california/south-orange-county_2950

The rocks and caves around Laguna are also amazing. We really need to learn more geology!

They literally build homes into the rocks along the shore here. We were woofing to a dog on the top floor balcony =)

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