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Dive Review of Dive Catalina/Villa Portofino in
The Continental USA/Catalina Island, CA

Dive Catalina/Villa Portofino, Nov, 2012,

by Neil Burgess, NF, CA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports). Report 6804.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Cozumel, Yucatan cenotes, Guadeloupe
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 60 to 61 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 40 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Abundance and variety of fish in kelp forest of Avalon Underwater Park was very good. Fish were not shy of divers and were easy to photograph.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments My wife and I really enjoyed two days of diving on Catalina Island in mid-November. Coming from Newfoundland, the weather was beautifully sunny and warm in California. We dove comfortably in dry suits, but most other divers were in wet suits. There are only three dive operators in the town of Avalon. We chose to go with Ron Moore and Dive Catalina, based in part on past news items in Undercurrent. Ron and Connie treated us like friends, right from our first phone conversation. I had booked a boat dive and Ron was good to his word. He agreed to take my wife and I out in the boat, even though we were his only divers that day. That meant a lot to us. The two boat dives were our first in kelp forest and Ron's dive briefings were informative and safety-oriented. The dives at Long Point and Hen Rock were fabulous. Lots of giant kelp, a large variety of fish and inverts (all new to us), and lots of bottom structure to keep it interesting. We had freedom to set our own dive plans and the sites were well suited to our level of training and experience. The hot freshwater shower and rinse tank on the dive boat (Catalina Grace) made rinsing our gear easy after we finished. Our second day was at the Avalon Underwater Park by the casino. Ron met us there with our dive gear and tanks, and provided a good briefing on the highlights to see, the depths, navigation and potential hazards. The Park provides an excellent setting for shore diving with entry stairs, lockers, washrooms, fill station, and cafe on site. The kelp forest holds a wide variety of fish and inverts, with some very approachable for photographers (especially "Oscar" the sheephead). The Cousteau plaque and the several sailboat wrecks provide some spots to visit beside the giant kelp. The bottom has some steep drops towards the end of the breakwater, which were interesting to explore. I imagine the Underwater Park must get very crowded in the summer months, but it was treat in November. We stayed at the Villa Portofino and had a normal-sized, clean motel room for a mid-range price. (Hotel rooms tend to be small and expensive in Avalon, especially in summer.) The Portofino does not cater to divers and had no rinse tank or gear-drying area. The Seaport Village Inn is another choice; it caters more to divers with rinse tanks, diver shuttles to the Underwater Park and boats, and cheaper rates. But the rooms are not as nice as the Portofino. I highly recommend the Lobster Trap restaurant. It's where the locals go for food (a tip from our dive boat captain, Clint). Excellent seafood and good prices. The best source of information on dive sites is Bruce Wicklund's 2005 book "Boat, Dive & Fish Catalina Island". Lots to do on Catalina besides diving with island and casino tours, zip lines, kayaking, snorkeling, "submarine" excursions, and Zodiac trips to see dolphins and sea lions. Have some fun and rent a golf cart for an hour, and tour Avalon and the surrounding hills for some stunning views. It's hard to believe how laid-back, relaxed and affordable Avalon is in November, given it's close proximity to Los Angeles. It's a hidden oasis of calm for those not familiar with diving in southern California.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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