The Island of Catalina was immensely more beautiful and preserved than I had expected. I would assume a lot of this has to do with how much of the land is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy. They control 88%! How amazing is that? You can go deep within by taking the Catalina Conservancy Eco Tour.
The Conservancy is a non-profit that was created in 1972 to protect the land and species that inhabit the island of Catalina. The Catalina coastline is the longest publicly accessible stretch of undeveloped coastline left in Southern California (source) and it really felt like that. It really is a breath of fresh air to be on an island thriving with tourism and see how well preserved it is. It’s clean! Literally clean! You could see to the bottom of the water in the harbor.
There were a few different “eco tour” options on the island, but the only tour that appeared “eco” to me was the one run by Catalina Conservancy. We chose it and were very happy that we did. Other tours had larger vehicles and appeared to not be able to go to all of the places that we did. It also felt good to have our money going toward conservation efforts.
We were on tour with Tom, and I highly recommend him if you’re able to request your guide. I’m sure everyone is great though.
To give you an idea of what we saw, I’ve made a quick list here. We went on the 3 hour tour.
- Bison, so many bison! And they were right next to us.
- Squirrels and fox and birds oh my
- Plants endemic to the island and invasive, with education on how the conservancy is protecting the endemic plants
- Eucalyptus guard rail built by Mrs. Wrigley
- So. Much. Land. So much undeveloped land! It was so beautiful.
- Isolated beaches only reachable by hiking or through the conservancy
- A small town in the middle of the island
- The airport in the sky (where private planes land on the island)
- The Trans Catalina Trail – a 37 mile hike that spans the length of the island of Catalina
- Multiple moments of fresh air and no people in sight
I’ve now added a new item to my bucket list: hike the Trans Catalina Trail, camp in Shark Harbor, and play alone on the Ben Weston Beach with no one else around. I can’t recommend this Catalina Conservancy Eco Tour enough for a quick view of the island of Catalina, and enticing reasons that you should add these to your bucket list too.
Tom did teach us about Catalina Backcountry, who will take all of your camping gear to the site for you (or just bring you their camping gear), which I may just opt for rather than carrying it on my back. ;-)
Let me know if you check it out!