for Companies that offer Scuba
The Strait of Georgia's
cold, clean waters provide the greatest diversity of Marine life in North America
- "second only to the Red Sea", according to Jacques Cousteau!
Saltery Bay Provincial Park.
Photo by Bob Coval
visibility, intriguing shipwrecks, incredible corals and the giant Pacific octopus
make the oceans around Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast
an underwater paradise for diving enthusiasts.
coastline of the Island is richly diverse, creating many different habitats and
environments for marine life. Consider the giant Pacific octopus, which grows
to be the largest in the world in these waters, weighing as much as 60 kgs with
tentacles stretching to over seven metres! Whether you visit these fellows residing
in the Saanich Inlet, check on the progress of the artificial reef slowly taking
shape offshore from Brentwood Bay or marvel at the abalone and unusual coral off
Saturna Island, the waters around Vancouver
Island offer some of the most rewarding dives in the world. There are numerous
shipwrecks around the coast, which have become habitats for sharks, eels and octopi.
Of course, these waters are also host to myriad other activities such as kayaking,
sailing, and whale watching, so you need not limit your choice of recreation.
All that colour! All those
fish! And the amazing clarity to see it all in! The water is not much colder than
the waters of northern California, permitting diving year round. Winter diving
is popular, and in some respects is even better than summer diving, as the water
temperature is only a degree or two lower, but the visibility is so much better
in winter. There is not as much spawning taking place, so there is far less particle
matter in the water clouding visibility. Many of the dive areas are also more
open and accessible as the bull kelp dies off in winter, increasing visibility
and easing navigation underwater.
Vancouver Island has it all; sea caves, cliffs,
walls, natural and artificial reefs, an assortment of shipwrecks plus scuttled
ships and airplanes, sandy bottoms and stunning rock formations, shore and boat-based
dives. From the wild Pacific coast to the sheltered marine ecosystems of the Gulf
Islands, exploring a 100-year-old wreck or drifting along 1000 ft rock wall, you
can experience the variety of different locations that feature unique one-of-a-kind
dive experiences. If the list seems endless, it is!
Victoria: The Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca meet in the waters off southern
Vancouver Island, creating a wonderful diversity of marine life. Diving in Victoria
ranks amongst the world's best. At Ogden Point, divers continuously plunge
directly off the Ogden Point Breakwater - every day of the year. An assortment
of rockfish, kelp greenlings, nudibranchs, perch, and sea stars can be seen. Octopus
and wolf eel also enjoy the protection of the huge granite blocks for their dens.
Diving off Ogden
Point Breakwater in Victoria
Ten Mile Point you will see a spectacular display of swimming scallops
scurrying off in all directions, like a school of false teeth. There is excellent
diving from Race Rocks, accessed out of the Inner Harbour by boat, with
the West Wall considered to be the top dive site in the Victoria area.
There, divers claim to have seen the most marine life anywhere. It is host to
a combination of protected-water sea life, and outer west coast wildlife.
west in Race Passage lies the wreck of the Barnard Castle, a turn-of-the-century
steam ship. Off the town of Sidney, where
much of the diving in Greater Victoria occurs, the G.B. Church and
the HMCS MacKenzie are two sunken diving reefs providing opportunity
for some great underwater exploration - keep an eye out for nesting lingcod, rockfish,
swimming scallops and other filter-feeding critters. Saanich Inlet is located
near Sidney. Although diving is good year round, during the winter months you
can enjoy several excellent boat dives in Saanich Inlet with crystal clear visibility.
At Senanus Island you can find great colonies of cloud sponge at 21-27
meters (70-90 feet). At times the clusters of sponge seem to dwarf a buddy! Looking
carefully in the openings of the sponge, you might find small rockfish or crabs
partially hidden and peering out. Saanich Inlet also has some impressive wall
diving and reefs excellent for macro or close-up photography. Small kelp and decorator
crabs, nudibranchs, shrimp and anemones are also easy to find at most locations.
Playful seals can be found at Repulse Rock and the snorkeling is good year round
at just about any site.
dive sites include North Cod Reef, South Bedford Island, Octopus
Island, Graham's Wall, Strongtide Island and Saxe Point.
The majority of local enthusiasts dive from shore, as the excellent shore diving
negates the need for costly boat dives. Most of the marine life in south island
waters are found in depths shallower than 18 metres, so there is no need to go
to the recreational limit of 27 metres. Dive time is therefore longer, further
enhancing the diving experience.
Pacific Rim: The West Coast of
Vancouver Island is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific, a name it earned
as a result of the many ships that have been wrecked in the area over the past
century. These wrecks, along with reefs, pinnacles and a multitude of marine plant
and animal life, including an amazing variety of starfish, are a real lure for
scuba divers. Local operators offer boat charters, live-aboard vessels and equipment
rentals, as well as instruction and diving certification. A vast tableau of marine
life thrives in the nutrient-rich waters in Dawley Passage Provincial Park,
northwest of Tofino. This park is a popular
local dive site. Strong currents surge through a narrow passage, which makes for
clear water but sketchy conditions.
Clayoquot Sound: A selection of
dive sites include Hot Springs Cove, Blunden, Meares and Vargas Islands. Reefs,
walls, and rock formations in the area are covered with multicoloured bat stars
and an assortment of anemone, sponge, nudibranchs, and tunicates. Located within
the boundaries of the Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver
Island, Barkley Sound is a unique wild coast wonderland. With over 100
islands in the Broken Group alone, itís easy to find a dive site even if the weather
is bad. Chup Point is a good place for fish photography, usually yielding
more than five species of rockfish on each dive. Yellow and white dorids, orange-peel
nudibranchs, frosted and opalescent nudibranchs can be seen at Christy reef. Renateís
Reef has numerous long gray resident wolf eels of varying length and age.
Not much remains of the 473-foot (142m) Vanlene since it went down
in 1972 near Austin Island with its bow in shallow water and its stern unfolding
down the reef like a broken puzzle. An abandoned Chinese migrant ship, approximately
100 feet in length, sits upright in 95 feet (28m) of water near Canoe Island
in Sechart Channel. The hull and wheelhouse are easy to explore, with a majority
of its marine residents growing on the outer hull and bow area.
Central Island: There's
no wreck like and old wreck, and that's what the HMCS Columbia,
scuttled by the Artificial Reef Society near Maud Island in Discover Passage just
north of Campbell River, is fast becoming.
And you don't actually have to dive in order to enjoy an unusual underwater experience
in the Campbell River. Snorkelling here from July to September provides a rare
opportunity to watch from the surface as salmon, some as large as 50 pounds (28
kg) school in the estuary in advance of spawning. Now that's something you don't
get to do in many places in the world! Guided snorkel tours are available.
God's Pocket Provincial Park is a new provincial
park where the focus is on diving and habitat protection for wildlife. God's Pocket
is made up of a group of islands, the largest of which are Bull and Hurst Islands,
about 20 km due north of Port Hardy. Most
diving takes place in nearby Browning Pass, an area highly rated by the late underwater
explorer Jacques Cousteau as one of the best diving locales in the world. The
Wall, 7 Tree Island, Croker Rock, Hunt Rock, North Wall, Rock of Life, and Hussar
Point are all great underwater photography sites. Deserter Islands features
a selection of intermediate dive sites including Barry Islet, Whistler Pass, Toyman
Gap, and Fantasea. Varied and abundant marine life makes for great dives in this
region. Nakwakto Rapids provides advances divers a chance to experience a strong
current dive with rare and unusual creatures who thrive in this nutrient rich
seascape. Stubbs Island provides a number of advances current dives, along
with the Blowhole and Plumper Rock. Slack tide dives reveal the top of this reef,
covered in undulating kept at 15 ft. A wall descends to 170 ft, covered in sponge,
anemone, basket stars, scallops and soft coral. Nootka, Kyuquot and Quatsino
Sounds are massive fiords and channels fed from the Pacific side of the Island
offering unlimited open coast dive sites along rugged shorelines. Esperanza Wall,
Quatsino Narrows, and the pinnacles located between Bunsby and Rugged Point are
highlights of this area.
and the Northern Gulf Islands offer world-class diving, particularly around Texada,
Hornby, and Lasqueti Islands. At Hornby
Island, from July to August you can see six-gill sharks off Flora Island,
the only location in the Strait of Georgia to do so - its rated among the top
10 dive sites in B.C. During the winter months diving and snorkeling with
dozens of sea lions is enjoyed at Norris Rocks, located at the southern
end of Hornby Island. Within the shallow water surrounding the site, you can find
lingcod, greenlings, red sea urchins, scallops and huge schools of juvenile fish.
Two artificial reefs created by the sunken hulls of the former naval ships the
HMCS Saskatchewan and the Cape Brenton, offer spectacular
dive experiences for intermediate and advanced divers. Due to strong currents,
Dodd Narrows can only be dived from a boat at slack water. The Mudge Island
side of the Narrows boasts heavily colonized sheer vertical faces. Wolf eels are
also common in the area, and occasionally during the winter months California
and Steller Sea Lions can be observed feeding on Salmon in the swift tidal stream.
A photographer's dream!
Neck Point, along time favorite of local
Nanaimo divers is a rocky peninsula with fringing islets and pinnacles where the
east face of the peninsula is a rock walls that tumbles down to 25 metres. In
winter months the wall is cruised by curious Sea Lions. Four Fathom Reef is
know locally as a prolific spawning ground for all species of Rock Fish, Lingcod,
Greenling, Spiny Pink Scallops and Giant Pacific Octopus. At this location divers
have a good chanse of seeing the Octopus out of their dens and active during daylight
hours. An underground pinnacle rises as shallow as 8 metres from a surrounding
sea floor depth. Wolf Eel and Giant Pacific Octopus can be seen on occasion at
Clarke Rock. Dual pinnacles come as close as metres from the surface and stand
at least 30 metres from the sea floor.
Jesse Island located in
Departure Bay boasts at least three separate, yet distrinct dive sites in very
sheltered conditions and is a very popular nightdive location. Each site has a
unique ecology ranging from rock pillars, sea caves, walls, gentle bottom slopes
and pinnacles. Snake Island is home to a large population of harbour seals
that appear clumsy and awkward as they lay on the rocks surrounding the island,
it offers unique snorkeling or viding opportunities. The seals are inquisitive
and will commonly approach a diver to within several feet. On the west side of
Snake Island is a short shelf extending out to 50' at which point the bottom drops
away to in excess of 200' immediately. The wall is covered with White Plumose
Anemones, Boot sponge, Cloud sponge, and in addition, a much more invertebrate
The Southern Gulf Islands are easily reached by ferry out
of Swartz Bay, just north of Victoria. Off Pender
Island, the Tilly Point Caves are like a dream, full of florescent
anemones and giant Dungeness crabs. You can enter through one opening and exit
through another. Much of the area around these islands is an underwater reserve,
its importance easily comprehended once you've had the privilege of visiting it.
Strong currents surge through Porlier Pass, located between Galiano and
Valdes Islands. Explore Boscowitz Rock, the wreck of the 105 ft tug Point Grey
or shore dive at Pringle Park and Coons Bay. The undersea life is abundant, with
large ling cod darting among green and purple sea urchin, nudibranch, Puget Sound
king crab, war bonnet, white pulmose and a variety of rock formations. There are
many superb dives in the area, and charter operations abound.
the passionate diver there are limitless opportunities for exploration around
Vancouver Island. The unrivalled beauty of the West Coast and the variety of wild
and marine life make it a vital destination for those interested in the sport.
Sechelt Peninsula: The Artificial
Reef Society of BC scored a major coup for divers when it was given the go-ahead
to scuttle HMCS Chaudiere, a retired Canadian Forces destroyer escort,
off Kunechin Point in Sechelt Inlet. The Chaudiere now rests on its side
in deep water (20-40m). Several descent lines lead divers to the 118m hull of
the ship and assist as guides to the surface. Kunechin Point, in Sechelt Inlets
Recreation Area, is also the site of a marine park campground and can be reached
by boat from either Sechelt or Egmont.
Another popular dive site in Sechelt Inlet is at Tuwanek Point Beach,
where fish are so varied and numerous that you may think you're snorkelling in
Hawaii. (The chill of the waters in the inlet will quickly disabuse you of that
notion.) Swim out from Tuwanek Point Beach to the nearby Lamb Islets to
visit the 'aquarium.'
North of Sechelt the popular spot for diving begins
in the waters of Halfmoon Bay at Coopers
Green Regional Park. The relatively shallow water on the east side of the bay
provides good beginner and intermediate diving as well as snorkelling. A note
of caution: Divers must be mindful of boaters in the water around Coopers Green
Regional Park and Halfmoon Bay in general.
The maze of coves, bays, and
islands around Pender Harbour make it
the most popular diving spot on the Sechelt Peninsula. You'll need a boat to reach
the four most popular sites at Fearney Bluffs, Nelson Rock, and
Anderson and Charles Islands.
The northeast corner of
the Sechelt Peninsula is also the entrance to the Sechelt Inlet. Boat dives originate
from the village of Egmont, a cluster of homes gathered around Secret Bay, a short
distance east of the BC Ferries terminal at Earls Cove. Three of the many possible
dive sites close to Egmont (which include the sunken Chaudiere at Kunechin
Point in Sechelt Inlet) are in the waters of Jervis Inlet off Foley Head, in Agamemnon
Channel, and the Park Wall off North Point at the Skookumchuk Narrows.
of wind and tidal currents make diving at these sites both exhilarating and dangerous.
The hulks form
a protective breakwater and provide an excellent dive site
Powell River is deservedly known as one
of the premier winter diving locales on the west coast of North America. The clarity
of the water and strong currents in Malaspina Strait are the two factors that
anchor this claim. More than 100 dive sites attract scuba divers from around the
world. One of these sites is the unusual breakwater formed by a ring of 10 concrete-hulled
Liberty ships that were sunk offshore in 1947 to protect the deep-water harbour
in front of the pulp mill.
addition, relics of sailing ships and sunken tugboats provide a refuge for marine
life, such as the wolf eels and giant octopi that inhabit the deep offshore waters.
A beautifully sculpted bronze mermaid sits in 20m of water offshore from Saltery
Bay Provincial Park in Mermaid Bay.
but photographs. Leave nothing but bubbles. Kill nothing but time."