Vancouver Island - Canada

The west coast of Canada offers some awesome diving. Some of the best can be found around Vancouver Island.

A big tidal range and constricted water ways leads to some of the fastest ocean currents in the world. Water can flow at speeds up to 17 knots, so much of the diving is done at slack water, although there are also a lot of places you can dive at any stage of the tide.

The water is full of nutrients. Combined with the high water movement, this creates a fantastic environment for filter feeding animals such as sponges and other invertebrate animals.

Rocky reefs are crammed with life, especially in high current areas, and most seems oversized. Giant nudibranchs, plumose anemones and other invertebrates stand out.

Diving Canada's west coast is a brilliant experience, even if the water temperatures mean that a drysuit is needed most of the time.

Some great operators to dive with on Vancouver Island include Rendezvous Dive Ventures in Barkely Sound on the west coast of the island, Tahtsa Dive Charters in the northwest, O'Brien Dive Charters in Nanaimo, Rockfish Charters in the south and God's Pocket Resort off the north coast.

Barkely Sound offers many sites where currents are relatively gentle. The water often seems to have a layer of poorer visibility overlying clear sea water The clumps of plumose anemones on reef outcrops, sand channels with giant seapens and big lingcod are a feature and between dives you might see a black bear or two on the beach from the boat. The Rendezvous Dive Ventures lodge and boat are an excellent base for diving.

Further north on the west coast is Tahsis. This small town is in Tahsis Inlet just off Nootka Sound and close to some really nice diving. Tahtsa Dive Charters goes to a number of interesting dive sites, but Mozino Point is one dive that really stands out. This site has lots of walls and rocky outcrops covered in strawberry anemones, and in contrast to other places with similar marine life, very gentle currents. Scott and Jude run a great dive charter and operate the well equipped dive shop. Despite the drive over unsealed logging roads (and the logging) this is definitely a place worth visiting again.

There are some excellent shore dives around Nanaimo and some spectacular boat dives. Snake Island has a wall that just plummets down into inky blackness and playful seals in the shallows. Dodd Narrows and Gabriola Passage are high current dives with masses of marine life.

There are many great dives around Victoria and the southern part of Vancouver Island. Race Rocks and Ogden Point are brilliant dives, with sealions at Race Rocks, kelp, and loads of fish and invertebrates. During my last trip to the island I managed to dive some new places in Saanich Inlet. The lack of current at most of the sites together creates distinctive marine life communities that gives most dives in Saanich Inlet a different feel to other areas around Vancouver Island. It is a great experience to glide down to huge cloud sponges on the sheer wall at McCurdy Point or across the stark reef at Senanus Island. Rockfish Charters is an excellent operator and runs a unique dive boat that is perfect for the inlet.

God's Pocket Resort is a brilliant dive operation and provides easy access to some superb diving, including nearby Browning Wall, arguably the best wall dive in North America. This underwater cliff drops down from the forested shore to over 80 metres. Beneath a fringe of kelp near the surface, the cliff is covered in masses of colorful soft corals and other invertebrates, and many fish live in its crevices. Many other dives are also excellent. For example, on just one dive at 7 Tree Island you can see a wall plastered with invertebrates, see a giant octopus or sea lion then finish in a kelp forest out of the current. Most in this part of the world dives are done at slack water due to very strong tidal currents, but with a skilled operator it is still easy to do wonderful dives. The facilities at God's Pocket make diving here even better, and Bill and Annie run a truly world class dive operation. So far I have stayed at God's Pocket 4 times and am planning on going again as soon as possible. On the most recent trip I had some great dives with Steller sealions and in Nakwakto Rapids.

New images from 2012 and 2013 can be seen here.

Plumose Anemones

Wolf Eel near Gods Pocket


Grunt Sculpin

Fish on Invertebrates


Nudibranch on Sea Cucumber

Nudibranch on Browning Wall

Nudibranch and Anemone

Giant Nudibranch



Reef Detail

Spotted Ratfish

Dungeness Crabs

Red Irish Lord Fin Detail

Basket Star

Decorated Warbonnet

Harbour Seal

Stellers Sea Lion

Octopus in Plankton Bloom

Painted Greenling


Browning Wall
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