Scuba diving in British Columbia

Scuba Diving
Vancouver Island

Diving off the Coast of BC
Vancouver Island | Vancouver

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Vancouver Island

Victoria and Saanich Inlet | Southern Gulf Islands
Sansum Narrows, Nanaimo and Hornby Island | Campbell River to Kelsey Bay
Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove

Diving Victoria and Saanich Inlet:

Diving at Fisgard Island is recommended for all divers and snorkelers. This is a shore dive in shallow waters, giving you an opportunity to enjoy a mixture of marine life. Watch for bull kelp and be careful of winds. This dive is very accessible, as Fisgard Island guards the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour and is only 11 km (7 mi.) west of Victoria on Highway 1A at Fort Rodd Hill. There is parking at the historic site parking lot.

Ten Mile Point, a dive for intermediate and expert divers or all divers with a guide is a provincial marine ecological reserve for scientific research, but as long as it is not damaged, recreational use is allowed. Do not take any marine life from this area. This is a great place to view all types of marine creatures, a rocky bottom and lettuce kelp. Be careful of the current here, the bull kelp, and broken fishing lines, so be sure to carry a diver's knife. To reach this fine diving spot, head to the village of Cadboro Bay, a suburb of Victoria. Go north on Cadboro Bay Road (which becomes Telegraph Bay Road) to Seaview Road, take Tudor Avenue, Baynes Road and finally White Rock Street where the rocks that will lead you to the sea.

Excellent diving at an artificial site is the Wreck of the G.B. Church, located in the Princess Margaret Provincial Marine Park. This is a boat dive for intermediate and export divers, and all divers with guide. The G.R. Church appears like a ghost ship, only it is teeming with marine life and experienced wreck divers can penetrate the wreck. The hazards here are current, small boats and trying to work your way into the wreck (unless you have taken a course in wreck diving). This wreck, in the marine park, located off Portland Island, is northeast of Sidney and you can charter from Sidney, Deep Cove, Victoria, Pender Island of Saltspring Island. Rent or launch your own boat and head for the site, tie on one of the four mooring buoys and carefully make your way down.

A kayak and boat dive that's available to all divers, is the Tod Inlet, where you will see red rock crabs, lingcod and jellyfish. The hazards at Tod Inlet are small boats, poor visibility and red jellyfish. This dive is on the east side of Scenic Inlet, at the south end of Brentwood Bay, which is only 15 minutes off Highway 17. Launch from Brentwood Bay or charter from Deep Cove or Victoria. There are more than 20 great diving sites in and Victoria and the Scenic Inlet, all with fairly easy access,
that range in diving difficulties and experience. Try them all when time permits and always plan your dive, and dive your plan.

Diving Southern Gulf Islands:

This fine diving area includes Galiano, Saltspring and Pender Islands. Tilly Point Caves is a shore dive for intermediate and expert divers, all divers with guide and snorkelers in the bay. This is a great diving site, almost picture perfect as you make your way through the cave, going in at one end and coming out at the other. The marine life here is also colourful and plentiful. Watch for current on both the inside and outside of the cave. There's bull kelp here, always dive at slack tide and weight yourself. Tilly Point Caves are located in Boundary Pass, just south of South Pender Island. To reach this spot, follow sings to South Pender and Bedwell Harbour, continue on the main road to Craddock Drive, where at the end is a bit of parking room. From here walk down the stairs to the beach and out to your destination. These caves are an honoured underwater reserve, don not touch or remove any marine life.

A very interest boat dive recommended for experts only is the Wreck of the Del Norte that went down after hitting Canoe Islet in the entrance to Porlier Pass. This sidewheeler which sunk in 1869, lay untouched until 1971.After it was discovered, artifacts were removed and in the late 1970's this site gained heritage status. There is a mooring buoy giving boaters a place to tie up so anchors will not cause more damage to the broilers and two paddlewheels. Wreck or no wreck, this is still a great dive site with an abundant amount of marine life. Canoe Islet is on the Strait of Georgia side of Valdes Island, it is north of the eastern entrance to Porlier Pass. Charter from Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Galiano, Gabriola or Saltspring Islands, or launch from Ladysmith, Chemainus or Galiano, watch for the orange buoy south of Canoe Islet marking the site.

An easy dive, located where the whole family can enjoy the beauty is Beddis Beach, on the southeast side of Saltspring Island. All divers and snorkelers will take to the shore dive that offers plenty of marine life, such as urchins, rockfish, giant barnacles, burrowing cucumbers, maybe even a dogfish shark. In shallower waters you'll find crabs, horse clams and plenty of lettuce kelp. Watch for current and dive near slack. Beddis Beach is off Ganges-Fulford Road, 8 km (5 mi.) out of Ganges, a drive that takes about fifteen minutes.

Diving Sansum Narrows, Nanaimo and Hornby Island:

This superb diving region stretches along the east coast of Vancouver Island, from the Cowichan Bay to Hornby Island, featuring a number of sites. Octopus Point, a kayak or boat dive is for expert divers and intermediate divers with guide, as it drops straight down into the abyss with marine life everywhere. The rock wall is covered with animals, such as rock scallops, trumpet sponges, nudibranches and coral. Colourful anemones and sea lilies add to the profusion of living creatures at Octopus Point. Be very careful of the current, bull kelp and depth here. Carry a knife, dive on the slack. When diving deep, rest before paddling back and do not over exert yourself, overexertion helps increase the risk of bends. Access to this diving spot is on the west side of Sansum Narrows between Vancouver and Saltspring Islands, it is southeast of Maple Bay and northeast of Genoa bay and Cowichan Bay ramps. Charter, rent or launch at Maple Bay. Kayak-divers can launch from Maple Bay to Paddy Mile Stone, from here to the point stay close to shore, it will take twenty to thirty minutes to paddle to the point of entry. Plan this dive carefully and dive your plan..

Round Island, a kayak or boat dive is for experts only. This dive has a great variety of dahlia anemones, as well as rockfish, lingcod, and octopuses. Both sea lions and killer whales can also be spotted here. The hazards at Round Island are strong currents and bull kelp. Dive on high slack. This island is south of Dodd Narrows in Stuart Channel, where currents are severe. Charter or launch in Nanaimo. Launch at the foot of Barnes-Murdock Road, head east to Round Island, anchor or land in the cove at the northwest tip. From here follow your compass heading due north for the dive.

Jesse Island is in Departure Bay, north of Nanaimo. This kayak or boat dive site is for all divers. Diving day or night, Jesse Island is an easy and safe spot that is very popular with both photographers and sightseers. Departure Bay is heavily used with salmon fishing just outside the bay, be very careful of small boats and ascent up close to the side of the island. Charter or rent a boat in Nanaimo, kayak-divers can launch at Departure Bay Beach and paddle east to the island. Anchor in the little bay or leave the kayak on an exposed ledge and dive along the north side of Jesse Island.

The dive at Gabriola Passage is for expert divers and snorkelers from a boat. It holds great fun for everyone, whether your wish to photograph the area, are a junk collector or just a sightseer. This is a current-swept passage, so be careful, however there are two small points sticking out to give you somewhere to swim, in case the current is too much. This place is shared by burrowing cucumbers, urchins, rock scallops, huge lingcod, tiger rockfish, yelloweye rockfish and octopuses. The shallows at Gabriola Passage are also very rich in sea life. Hazards here are very swift current, the many boats and the bull kelp. Dive precisely on the slack. Pull out of the dive if the current picks up. A pick up boat is required. Listen for boats and ascend along the bottom to the shore, well away from any boats. It's essential to use a compass on this dive and watch the current for direction. Gabriola Passage is the northern most passage between the Gulf Islands. Charter from Gabriola, Nanaimo, Victoria or Vancouver, launch at Degnen Bay on Gabriola and go to the south side of this passage. You must have a pickup boat.

Wall Beach which is a shore dive for all divers with guide or for intermediate and experts is where you will find octopuses and wolf-eels. Other marine life includes rockfish in great numbers and a variety of starfish. Watch the current here, it's a long swim out to the dive site, wind can be a factor and there are small boats in and around this region. Wall Beach dive is near Parksville, at Northwest Bay on Vancouver Island. Take Northwest Bay Road off the Island Highway, between Nanaimo and Parksville. This area has good night diving

Flora Islet, where you have an opportunity to see sixgill sharks is a boat dive for expert divers, and intermediate divers with guide. Sixgill sharks are a pale gray, and range anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 meters (8 to 12 feet) and move slowly, but will turn in a hurry. These graceful animals come up from great depths during the summer, but very little is known about them. Flora Islet, is the only spot in the Strait of Georgia where these sharks have been spotted. The depth, current, boats and sharks are all hazards at Flora Islet. Never be tempted to follow the sharks down. Close to the islet in about 4 meters (15 feet) of water, you will find lots of marine life. This is a sensitive area and is honored as a reserve. This means do not touch, take or disturb any marine life, only look and leave it for others to enjoy. Access to Flora Islet is off the southeastern tip of Hornby Island, which is near the north end of the Strait of Georgia. Southwest winds prevail here, so pick a calm day and dive early in the morning. Be safe, have fun!

Diving Campbell River to Kelsey Bay:

Snorkeling the Campbell River is to see salmon in their own territory as they swim upstream. The best time to snorkel with the salmon is from early August to mid October and can be a thrill of a lifetime. The bottom of the river is rocky, and depth ranges from dry rocky spots to 3 meters (10 feet), in the shallow spots you can stand up, but head for the deeper spots, as it makes for easier floating. When snorkeling the Campbell River watch the current, rubbish, as well as fallen branches and trees. Access to the put-in is from the Gold River Highway #28 and the logging bridge. Mark your take out which is at the end of Maple Street. Float with a buddy and enjoy about an hour of snorkeling with salmon in Campbell River. Be safe, have fun!

Richmond Reef, is a shore dive, recommended for expert divers with local guide. It is essential to dive with a live boat for pick up in this area, and you best not be a novice diver when you hit these waters. The current at Richmond Reef is very difficult and you have to watch for boats and the kelp, but the dive is worth the effort as colourful marine life is all around you. Access to this dive site, in Discovery Passage close to the west side of Quadra Island is from Quathiaski Cove, where you can either launch or charter. Be very careful doing this dive.

The extremely colourful world found at Seymour Narrows is a boat dive for experts and intermediate divers with guides. This dive is your opportunity to see all types, colours and sizes of anemones. You will also have a chance to see abalones, rock and swimming scallops, and lingcod. Watch the current, tide rips and whirlpools. All types of boats use this waterway, so watch for them. When ascending listen for the small boats and hug the side of the passage. Seymour Narrows is near the middle of Discovery Passage, and north of Campbell River. Charter or launch from Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island or from Campbell River. Dive with a live boat and go with a charter operator who knows Seymour Narrows and dive your plan.

Diving Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Telegraph Cove:

In order to see marine life at its finest, boat dive Plumper Rock. You should be an expert diver or an intermediate with a guide. China rockfish are common here, so are hydrocoral and basket stars. In winter, the visibility is usually 24 to 30 meters (80 to 100 feet). Bald eagles can also be spotted here, after your dive, look for them. Hazards are current and boats, the current is always moving here. Hug the rocks as you come up and listen for boats. Plumper Rock is located on the east side of Weynton Passage in the Plumper Islands. Charter or launch at Telegraph Cove or Port McNeill. It is best to have a pickup boat when doing this dive. Safety should always come first.

Bear Cove which is a shallow shore dive with easy entry is for all divers and snorkelers. This is a good winter dive, at which time hooded or lion nidibranchs seem to cling to every kelp stalk in the cove. On the reef you will find plumose anemones, kelp greenlings and rockfish. There are a lot of boats and visibility is poor, there's bull kelp in summer and red jellyfish in the fall. When ascending use a compass and stay close to the bottom and come out on shore north of the ramp. Check for stinging tentacles from the jellyfish. Bear Cove, at the southeast end of Hardy Bay, can be reached by travelling 8 km (5 mi.) from Port Hardy on Bear Cove Highway or if travelling north from Port McNeill, watch for the Prince Rupert Ferry sign. Look and enjoy, never take any marine life.

Browning Wall which divers' claim is a great place to drift is a boat dive for intermediate and expert divers or all divers with guide. This sheer drop-off is a kaleidoscope of marine life that is constantly on the move. There are basket stars, yellow and black China rockfish, sponges, kelp greenlings, anemones, red urchins, rock scallops, nudibranch, nudibranch eggs and giant barnacles. They weave in and out, mingling and forming an unforgettable water postcard. Hazards here include boats, depth and current. Watch for red jellyfish in the fall. As you ascent listen for boats and stay close to the wall. Before you made your dive, have a plan and stick to it and dive with a live boat. This is the only wall on the chart that drops off to 66 meters (215 feet) and is located on the west side of Browning Passing at the south end of Nigei Island. Charter or launch from Port Hardy or God's Pocket. Enjoy this extra special dive.


Howe Sound | Indian Arm | Sechelt Peninsula and Powell River

Diving Howe Sound:

Search for sunken treasure where there's no current, a short easy swim, an easy entry and recommended for all divers. This is the Old Customs House dive located in Howe Sound. Diving here can result in finding old mining artifacts, old bottles and maybe even old bricks that came from Anvil Island. The one and only hazard here is the silt, it's best to dive on an ebbing tide that might carry away the silt you stir up. Before making the dive, you and your buddy should plan your dive and dive your plan, incase you loose sight of each other. The visibility is poor. The Old Customs House dive is just off the Sea to Sky Highways #99 at Britannia Beach. Go past the Customs House, turn left and head for the deteriorating launching ramp. Swim out to the end of the dock and look for artifacts at the base of the pilings. Be careful, bottom is silty and sheers off, visibility is poor.

Seymour Bay, a shore dive for all divers and snorkelers. You will find marine life at 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) that includes flounders, burrowing cucumbers, tube worms, kelp greenlings, sea peaches, and giant barnacles. Deeper down dahlia and large orange plumose anemones are plentiful. Seymour Bay is on Bowen Island, which is a 15 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay. Once on the island, it's a 25 to 30 minute drive over steep, rough roads. There are no homes or habitation on Seymour Bay but it is a really good dive with plenty of history.

Lighthouse Park at the entrance of Burrard Inlet is known as one of the best dives in the Vancouver area for seeing marine life. This is a shore or kayak dive and is for intermediate and expert divers. Diving here means seeing gray cabezons and kelp greenlings side by side, sea pens burrowing in ledges covered by pink sea stars. There are black rockfish, copper rockfish and lingcod, little hairy crabs. Rocks are covered with orange anemones. This is your chance to see giant barnacles, white plumose anemones, cloud sponges, urchins and red Irish lords and with luck a huge octopus. Watch for current, wind and broken fish line. In summer the visibility is poor and there are usually a lot of small boats. Another hazard is a very tiring hike from the parking lot at Lighthouse Park and the site. Access to Lighthouse Park is at Point Atkinson off Marine Drive in West Vancouver, but remember to dive here you must have permission from the Harbour Master's Office, as are most other dives in the region.

Diving at Indian Arm:

Belcarra Bay which is a short dive is for all divers and snorkelers. This is a great place for underwater sightseeing, with easy entry and a short swim. Diving here you are likely to see rockfish, sunflower stars, orange and white plumose anemones, nudibranchs and look for Dungeness and red rock crabs in the eelgrass and sand around the reef. Do not remove any wildlife from this park. The hazards of this dive are mostly small boats, poor visibility and red jellyfish in the fall. Belcarra Bay is located in Belcarra Park, on the east side of Indian Arm, which is easily reached from Port Moody off Highway 7A. Drop gear off at the gate at the end of Midden Road and park at the picnic area. You will find easy entry from the sand and the wharf. Make sure you know what the park hours are and schedule accordingly. You will need permission from the Harbour Master's Office to dive here.

For a dive that is close to the city of Vancouver, but miles away when it comes to diving and marine life visit West Cates Park, where red rock crabs and Dungeness crabs are easy to find, little snails, Oregon tritons and flounders are all around. This is a very interesting shore dive for intermediate and experts. When diving here watch for some current, shallow depths, poor visibility and small boats, especially in summer. It's recommended you wear extra weight and use a compass to stay on the bottom for the dive. Cates Park, is on the west side of Indian Arm at Roche Point in North Vancouver, follow signs that go towards Deep Cove till you reach Cates Park. To dive at Cates Park, permission is required from the Harbour Master's Office.

The southeast corner of Croker Island is an excellent boat dive for all divers and snorkelers. You will see small dahlia anemones, green urchins, burrowing cucumbers and painted greenlings. Lingcod, rockfish, small shrimp and hairy lithode crabs are in abundance. Another interesting and fun dive is the northeast corner of Croker Island. This is an excellent spot for the photographer, especially in winter, when visibility ranges to 30 meters (100 feet) all around this island. Watch for boats in the summer, and red jellyfish in the fall. Check for stinging tentacles before removing diving gear. Croker Island is located at the head of Indian Arm, northeast of Deep Cove and Cates Park and north of Reed Point. You can launch your boat from North Vancouver and Port Moody. Charters are available from Ioco, Deep Cove and Port Moody, or water taxi from Reed Point. No mater when you plan to dive this area, you will need permission from the Harbour Master's Office. Enjoy this and the many other diving sites, always be careful and never harm the marine life. Be safe, have fun!

Diving at Sechelt Peninsula and Powell River:

One of the very best wreck dives found anywhere is located in Sechelt Inlet The Wreck of HMCS Chaudiere, a huge warship is recommended for expert divers with wreck penetration and for intermediate divers for exterior wreck dives. This is a challenge as the ship is deep with 67 rooms on four decks that are all open for diving. Many rooms still hold equipment that adds to the dive. There is also plenty of marine life in and around this wreck. Hazards include depth and the temptation to explore more than you are capable of doing. Make a dive plan, stick to it and keep track of time. Entry should only be made by expert divers who have been trained and have necessary information about this wreck to make it a safe dive. The HMCS Chaudiere Wreck sits in the Sechelt Inlet, in the bay north of Kuneching Point. Launch or charter from Tillicum Bay or Porpoise Bay and watch for the yellow buoys that mark the wreck. Do not make this dive without first checking with local divers. Be safe, have fun!

Sechelt Rapids, locally known as the Skookumchuck, is the fastest-flowing tidal rapids in the world and a great spot to dive. Only expert divers and intermediate divers with guide should do this boat dive. There is constant motion here. It churns four times a day with every turn of the tide. Sechelt Rapids is very rich in marine life. The current here is potentially dangerous, plan ahead and pick your dive time very carefully. On your first dive here, charter with an operator who knows the Skookumchuck and always dive with a buddy. Charter, rent or launch at Porpoise Bay or Egmont. Sechelt Rapids is at the north entry to Sechelt Inlet. Plan this dive well and be careful.

One of the many fine dive sites out from Powell River is the boat dive called Rebecca Rocks. This full of life reef is for all divers and snorkelers. There are sea cucumbers, rock scallops, lingcod, rock greenlings and small rockfish are everywhere. Another plus at Rebecca Rocks is that harbor seals will snorkel and dive with you. When diving here be careful of the wind, the current, the many boats and broken fishing line. Dive on the slack. Carry a knife. It is recommended to use a compass, pay heed to the current and don't over stray from your boat position. This is honoured by locals as a reserve, so please do not touch or take out any marine life. To reach the Rebecca Rocks go northwest of Texada Island in Algerine Passage. Charter from Westview or Lund on the Sunshine Coast, from Comox on Vancouver Island or launch from Texada Island or Westview. Anchor and choose your diving location depending on the current direction.

These are just a very few of the many great diving sites you can enjoy along the coastal waters of British Columbia. Keep in mind that when diving a new site, it's essential to have an experienced and licensed guide that knows the area, and most important of all, always dive with a buddy. Plan your dive, and dive your plan. Local dive shops will be more than happy to give you all the latest information on dive sites in their region. Enjoy your diving, be safe and have fun!

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