Scuba Dive BC: join me on a journey beneath the waves to the greatest underwater playground on Earth
In This Scuba Diving Article You Will Discover:
- Where the Best Scuba Diving in BC Can Be Found
- How to Access Each Location
- What To Expect When You Submerge
The late Jacques Cousteau rated the waters off British Columbia, Canada, as the second-best temperate diving waters in the world — next to the Red Sea. Personally, I think Captain Cousteau visited BC on an off-day, because I doubt anything could compete with what BC’s waters offer. The “Emerald Sea” boasts speckled ling cod, silvery salmon, playful seals, imposing-but-harmless basking sharks, shy wolf eels and a host of other sea creatures. Have you ever seen a scallop swim or come face-to-face with a giant Pacific octopus? Check out these scuba diving meccas for the best BC’s underwater has to offer, and then find the locations on the map at the bottom of the post:
Located near the BC Ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay, Whytecliff Park is one of the most popular diving spots in BC’s Lower Mainland. You don’t even need a boat — a few of the best-known dives in the park are accessible right off the shore. Make sure to check out Whytecliff Marker, known for giant octopus and friendly seal. It is a nice spot for newbies, too, as regular classes and local dive instructors hold tours here.
Slightly further up the Howe Sound than Whytecliff, Porteau Cove Provincial Park offers three scenic scuba shore dives. Popular because it is off-limits to boaters, making it a safe dive locale, take in the Porteau Wall (a haven for crabs); or The Bay, full of natural and artificial reefs; and the stunning Nayaka, a sunken, 125-foot navy minesweeper-turned-fish-packer, which enjoys its third life as an underwater hotbed for all types of marine species.
The VT 100
It may not be the Edmund Fitzgerald, but the wreck of the VT 100 is still an impressive site. A former US Navy minesweeper, later converted to a tugboat, it rests in Davy Jones’s Locker in about 20 metres of water. Sunk by vandals in 1953, it is mostly decayed, but still offers the adventurous a great dive, as sea life has flourished in the wreckage. Located near the town of Belcarra, about 20 km from downtown Vancouver, it is at the gateway to the diver’s paradise of Indian Arm.
A shallow shore dive, Fisgard Island offers fun for both scuba divers and snorkellers. Become entranced by eerily beautiful kelp forests, which hold a variety of sea life. Fisgard Island is located in Esquimalt Harbour, just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Victoria
Ten Mile Point
The underwater world is preserved in its purest form at Ten Mile Point — the whole area is a marine ecological preserve. Recreational access is allowed — but look and don’t touch. The rocky bottom holds fish to rival any tropical sea. Who knows, you may even see the famous Cadborosaurus, a sea monster rumoured to inhabit the waters off Victoria’s Cadboro Bay, where Ten Mile Point is located.
HMCS Cape Breton
Sunk in 2001, the massive Second World War-ear Naval Vessel the HMCS Cape Breton sits in 40 metres of water offshore of Nanaimo, on Central Vancouver Island. This massive boat has become the region’s signature dive, with the crow’s nest in an easily accessible 12 metres of water, and the bottom of the engine room resting some 30 metres beneath. The range of depths ensures both beginner and advanced divers will be satisfied — and the Saskatchewan, another artificial reef, rests nearby once you’re done with the Cape Breton. But since it’s the world’s second-largest artificial reef, I’m guessing you’ll be occupied for a while…
From the Comox Airport, head south for about 25 km to the Buckley Bay Ferry Terminal, your jumping off point to access Hornby Island. Accessed by guide boat from Hornby, Flora Islet is one of the great BC dives. Scuba in the shallows around the islet, and gaze on the magnificent six-gill shark, as Flora is the only spot in the Strait of Georgia they can be found. Nearby Norris Rocks, Chrome Island and Eagle Rock are also on the must-dive list.
Located on the eastern shore of Comox, swim out about 20 metres off shore and you’ll find a submerged sailboat teeming with life – the King Coho. Three octopi are known to dwell in the boat’s hull, providing divers with great photo opportunities. Watch for ling cod patrolling the sea too, as well as spiny sculpin and the occasional salmon.
Arguably the most beautiful underwater statue in the world, this three-metre-tall bronze statue, located in the Saltery Bay provincial park, offers a truly one-of-a-kind underwater adventure. Watch as rockfish circle the statue, and keep your underwater camera ready for octopi. Nearby, there is a 30-metre drop-off, alive with the bizarre and beautiful tube sponge, if you dare to dive into the depths.
Iron Mines Wall
Divers with a few trips under their belts may want to explore Iron Mines Wall. A dive that requires a bit of know-how, you can go down to depths of 30 metres, ending up in a beautiful kelp forest. See why the world’s best underwater photographers make Iron Mines Wall a regular stop on their world tours.
Hire a guide and check out this stretch of sea. Swim alongside a scallop, look at the endangered abalone and marvel at the huge anemones that open like underwater flowers. Nearby are the remains of Ripple Rock — a stony hazard that sank many a ship until it was blown to smithereens by one of the largest-ever non-nuclear explosions. Now Ripple Rock enjoys a more peaceful existence, serving as home to fish and other creatures that feed in the tidal currents.
This leviathan, sunk in 1996 to accommodate divers and fish alike, is one of the most spectacular artificial reefs in existence. At more than 100 metres in length, and ranging in depth from about 17 to 35 metres, the 2,800 tonne ship is a sight to behold — entertaining for novice and advanced divers. Dive to the Columbia anytime — it is sheltered from the currents for easy access — but just remember going inside the ship is a nautical no-no.
Port McNeill/Port Hardy
Launch from Port McNeill with a guide and take off under the watchful eye of circling bald eagles for this fantastic boat dive. With great visibility — 25 to 30 metres in winter — the china rockfish, hydrocoral and basket stars will have nowhere to hide. Would you like to know what a pomegranate nudibranch looks like? Dive at Plumper.
Pack up your scuba gear, as all you need is a mask and snorkel to enjoy Bear Cove, and easily accessible shore dive eight km north of Port Hardy. The spotted kelp greenling, one of BC’s most beautiful fish, is found in abundance, as are anemones the size of your head! From a safe distance, admire the rhythmic floating of the occasional red jellyfish that will pass through the area.
World-renowned as one of the finest wall dives one can find, Browning Wall is an explosion of sea life — sponges, anemones, urchins and crabs all line the rock, and fish — from salmon to sculpins — dart about. A guide is recommended for the less-experienced scuba’er, as the depths can reach a dizzying 75 metres. But you don’t necessarily have to brave the abyss, as visibility is excellent, up to 25 metres in the right conditions.
Northern British Columbia
Hakai Provincial Recreation Area
Depending on distance, take either a boat or a floatplane from any of the surrounding communities, (Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Rivers Inlet, Ocean Falls, Hakai Pass, Klemtu) to BC’s largest marine park. The 123,000-hectare expanse of water and land is rich with life ripe for the underwater explorer. Shipwrecks abound off this rugged coast — with three notables near Atli Point, Shearwater and Namu. Revel at the passing dolphins, porpoise or a pod of thunderous orcas. Minke, humpback and grey whales are spotted frequently, and monster chinook salmon run through the waters with reckless abandon. The ocean floor in this pristine land is so colourful you’ll think you’re looking through a kaleidoscope as you swim toward the bottom. The scuba sites in Hakai are as plentiful as waves on the ocean — hire a local guide and prepare yourself for the greatest adventure beneath the sea since the days of Captain Nemo.
Beautiful British Columbia has more than 25,000 km of coastline — there are many more sites to explore. For more information on scuba diving and free-diving in BC, visit www.hellobc.com, http://dive.bc.ca or http://www.artificialreef.bc.ca.
View BC Scuba Sites in a larger map