catalina-submarine-tour-semi-submersible

Semi-Submersible Submarine Tour

I’ve been fascinated with submarine movies since I first saw “Das Boot”. So for me, just being in a submarine is enough to make me go bananas. Before you get toooo excited, Catalin’a submarines don’t “dive! dive!”, they are actually semi-submersibles, cruising through the water much like a submarine does when at the surface.

Catalina’s semi-submersible tours are much more than a thrill ride. From your seat six feet under the surface, you get front row seats to watch colorful orange garibaldi, striped bass, seals, rays, octopus, and even sharks on occasion. While garibaldi and bass are guaranteed, you have to get lucky or have an extremely keen eye to pick out some of the other species within viewing distance. You can feed the fish with the “fish food torpedo” directly from your seat with the push of a button, and a feeding frenzy will ensue right in front of your window. Note: you must purchase fish food once on board – extra! The tour operators on board know how to make the trip fun and exciting, and offer hilarious (and educational) color commentary throughout the trip, once in a while you get a “blah” kind of tour guide, but usually they are great.

There are two tour operators that offer semi-submersible undersea tours on Catalina Island, Discovery Tours (green and white sub) and Catalina Adventure Tours (yellow sub). Both depart from the Green Pleasure Pier right in the middle of town, and the undersea tour last about 45 minutes. On the way back, you can stand out on the deck and check out the harbor as you cruise to the pier.

Bear in mind that this tour ain’t that cheap if you have a big family. A group of six of us (3 adults, 3 kids) visited in May 2011, and the bill was going to come to about $180. So, we rented a boat. That being said, if you’ve never been before, and we all had, it’s a fun experience.

One money saving tip: (off the record) The tour operators at the kiosk will haggle with you a bit. No, it’s not like a market in Marrakesh, but you can get your tours bundled at senior prices and so on if you have the gift of the gab, or get lucky!

Catalina Island Undersea Tour Operators

Catalina Adventure Tours

These guys operate the bright yellow submarine “SS Nautilus”. You can see it docked at the pier, or making regular trips in and out Avalon Harbor. Tours operate a preset times during the day, and during the summer months – night tours are available as well. At night, you get to see and entirely different spectrum of sea life.

Prices are $39 for adults, $34 for seniors, and $29.95 for children. Night-time tours are $31 for adults, $29 for seniors, and $25 for children.

You can book these tours when you arrive at the Catalina boat landing. There is a kiosk in the building right on the landing – you can’t miss it. If you want to bundle your undersea tour with another tour, you can save about 10-20%. Present your AAA membership card for a discount.

For more information visit www.catalinaadventuretours.com or call (877) 510 2888.

Discovery Tours

Discovery Tours operate tow vessels, the “Starlight” and the “Emerald”. These boats put you five feet under the surface, face to face with bright orange garibaldi, spotted calico bass, urchins, rockfish and bat rays, and more. Discovery Tours also offers night tours during the summer months. At the end of the tour each passenger gets a “Fish Finder Guide” souvenir button.

Tour times are Monday-Friday 12:00PM, 1:00PM, 2:00PM and 3:30PM. Sat-Sunday 11:00AM, 12:00PM, 1:00PM, 2:00PM and 3:00PM.

Prices are $36 for adults, $32 for seniors, and $26 for children. Night-time tours are the same price.

Discovery Tours is located at 1 Island Plaza, Avalon, CA 90704 (at the ferry boat landing). Visit www.visitcatalinaisland.com for more information or call (310) 510 TOUR.

Video: Undersea Tour Aboard the SS Nautilus