The aquarium of the Pacific is closer than you think. Sea life flourishes just offshore here in Laguna, wild and beautiful.
I went snorkeling twice during the Fourth of July weekend offshore of Heisler Park. In this long-protected area all the fishes of a thriving kelp forest can be found. Threading my way through the sometimes submerged outcroppings and around Bird Rock, I saw a bounty of creatures. All of the regulars; the innumerable bright Garibaldis, shimmering schools of anchovies and topsmelt to swim through, cleaning stations where the senorita wrasses mob you, kelp bass and surf perch of all sizes, and invariably several large bat rays ‘in flight’. All against a background of swaying kelp stalks, starfish, urchins, anemones, and open patches of sandy bottom.
If you are patient and senses keen Neptune will provide highlights. Saturday it was a 24-inch cabezon (marbled sculpin) in perfect ambush position that had incredible camouflage. Monday a circling school of four leopard sharks barely won my vote over a dozen not-so-hard-to-find spiny lobsters (including a real biggie).
Take advantage of this treat. Good sunlight and this summer’s warm water beckon. It’s not the Great Barrier Reef, but it is a lot closer.
Tony Nichols, Laguna Beach