Page 18 - The Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Summer Fall 2010

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our of the eight California Channel Islands – Anacapa, San
Miguel, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa – are Santa Barbara
County islands; the ones most clearly visible from the
Montecito Coast are Anacapa and Santa Cruz. All four islands
are part of the Channel Islands National Park and are controlled and
monitored by the National Park Service. Chartered trips to the islands can
be taken via Island Packers in Oxnard or Condor Express at Santa Barbara
Harbor. We are partial to Fred Benko, owner-captain of Condor Express,
who knows as much about the islands and the ocean in between as any
oceanographer, as do his co-captains and staffers, but Island Packers do
a great job too. Fred’s high-speed catamaran can get out to the islands in
about 45 minutes, and now that blue whales – along with humpbacks,
grays, and some 30 species of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions – have
chosen Santa Barbara Channel as their preferred feeding ground, the
area has become home to one of the largest concentrations of blue and
humpback whales in the world.
Writer-naturalist Chuck Graham has visited the islands in a kayak,
which he says is the best way to experience the raw beauty and drama of the
abundant sea life that congregates on these nearly uninhabited islands. He
says the Channel Islands have been dubbed “The Galapagos of the North”
because of the amazing variety of sea life that is found nowhere else.
Chuck goes on to marvel that “spelunking the sea caves is a kayaker’s
playground, nesting habitat for seafaring birds and potential haul-outs for
thousands of harbor seals and sea lions. With over 200 sea caves to choose
from, the Channel Islands possess more caverns than anywhere else in the
His photos tell the story; his words fill in the gaps.
Welcome to Montecito
It’s just a mile and a half or so of sand and sea, but the coast of
Montecito contains some of the most expensive land in the U.S. It also
has five surf breaks worthy of note (at least during the winter months),
one of California’s few five-star resorts (the Biltmore), what is probably
the most costly home in the United States (Ty Warner’s $250 million
seafront manse), and an enormous kelp forest that grows unhindered just
300 yards off the shoreline. To experience it all, one need not buy or rent a
kayak, as a pair of feet at low tide and a snorkel, wetsuit and fins anytime
will do.
Whether you join Chuck on a kayak spelunking the caves of Anacapa,
the grunion on a moonlit night, or Fred on the Condor Express, we say, as
we always do: welcome to Montecito.
Tim Buckley
Publisher’s Note
Galapagos Of The North