Perhaps one of the most striking features of Pacific northwest diving is the sheer magnitude of protected coastline which makes this one of the most accessible diving areas in the world.
The general conditions of dive sites in our vicinity display cold water temperatures, water salinity, a year round season, good visibility, kelp beds that host numerous species, current and rip tides that supply nutrients for invertebrate life, sunken ships and log booms that create habitat, surge and surf for a spectrum of sea life. All this give rise to the opportunity to not only offer excellent diving settings but the conditions are also conducive to underwater photography, spear fishing and shellfish collecting, bottle collecting, wreck diving and night diving.
Colour, Colour and more Colour
The colour and variety of marine animals existing in the Georgia Strait Basin is astonishing. It is necessary to carry an under water light on every dive in order not to miss any of that colour. Marine algae and kelps are abundant as well, with over 500 species of marine algae having been recorded on the coast of British Columbia; our oceans are teeming with life, with each species conveying its own particular fascination.
Jacque Cousteau described the Discovery Passage as second only the Red Sea in its diversity of marine and invertebrate life. The HMS Columbia was recently sunk just north of Campbell River off the west coast of Quadra Island and offers excellent wreck diving for the more experienced, there are also many excellent opportunities for exploration even for the novice diver. These include a drift dive south from Rotary Beach Park to the Willow Point Reef following the shore line of the city of Campbell River which is something very few coastal communities are able to offer and a quick and accessible dive below the waters of the Argonaut wharf a known location of pacific octopus.
Watch the currents
Scuba diving in Discovery Passage ought to only be attempted during slack tide. The current has been recorded at flows at speeds of up to 22 knots through the Seymour Narrows, the narrowest section of Discovery Passage. These currents are phenomenally rich in nutrients and oxygen, and sustain an awesome array of marine life, but can be a voucher for disaster if a diver is not prepared. Many different species of fish, colourful invertebrates, and the elusive giant pacific octopus reside in these nutrient-rich waters.
Diving Highlights, Campbell River
This is one of the few dives on the Campbell River side of the passage. Located on Spit Road, the dive is famous for the octopus that hide under the pilings of the wharf. This dive is affected by currents; therefore it must be done on the slack tide, recommended to be done only with an experienced guide.
Drift dive; time it right and it is a great ride, bull kelp 20 meters long, rock fish, some sandy bottom, some rocky. Red Irish lords, ling cod, goeduck, clams. Gently sloped bottom with some large boulders, look out for boats and watch the current.
Soft, pale pinky-orange anemone massed over walls or tumbling loosely over the rocks, with parent filaments streaming into the current, Christmas anemones with red tops and green and red bases, a few tall while plumose anemones are plentifully displayed in this dive. An infusion of aquatic colour, mixed in mauve and pink brooding anemones, millions of white stunted anemones, sponges, yellow, and orange with giant red urchins and small green urchins. Bring a light - Seymour Narrows in Technicolor. Hazards are current, tide rips and whirlpools. This is a main shipping lane, so proceed with extreme caution.
Diving Highlights Quadra Island
Quathiaski Cove - Old Ferry Landing
A good introductory dive to the Campbell River area, located at the end of Ferry Road which is a spur off the road to April Point on Quadra Island. This site is famous for its very friendly kelp greenlings. Keep your eyes open for octopus and a harbour seal. Some current can be present at this dive so check the tide conditions before you commence your dive.
A good dive if there is any northern breeze, located on Quadra Island, you continue past Heriot Bay on Hyacinthe Bay Road, after about a 20 minute ride on a gravel road, turn right on to Valdez Road. Dive to the right or left along the steeply dropping walls. Wolf eel and octopus have been seen here. For a change, try the dive at the end of Breton Road (off Valdez Road).
The best to just get wet, there is easy access and lots of parking, the dive is not really spectacular but definitely worth the trip. You can dive on both the inside and the outside of the spit; octopus, sunflower starfish and lion’s mane nudibranch are just a few of the species you may encounter. Bring the family for a picnic on the beach, the scenery is fabulous.
A current dive located at the end of Nobel Road on Quadra Island, this is definitely an advanced dive due to the potential high currents. The sea life is unbelievable with the bottom carpeted with strawberry anemones.
There's no wreck like an old wreck. That's what the 366-foot former navy destroyer HMCS Columbia is fast becoming. She was scuttled by the Artificial Reef Society near Maud Island in Discovery Passage, just north of Campbell River on the west coast of Quadra Island. Divers should check with the Underwater Archeological Society of BC, or dive shops and marinas in Campbell River, for more details.
The small island of Steep, close to Gowlland Island in Discovery Passage, is rated as one of the best dives in the world. The northern tip of Steep Island is best attempted at the end of an ebbing tide, for a fabulous dive amongst a profusion of colour, anemones, sponges, wolf eels, corals, lingcod, tiger rockfish and octopi.
Relatively current free site with easy access, a good place to dive without and complicated concerns. Access from shore, rocky bottom with bull kelp to 10 meters, then sandy bottom, Steep clay undercut with narrow slit ledges housing ling cod, tiger rockfish and octopi, sloping to 30 meters. Hazards to watch for: wind and small fishing boats. Located at the South end of Sutil Channel, on the east side of Quadra Island.
Immense rock wall climbing over 90 meters vertically out of Discovery Passage. Underwater enormous white plumose anemones on abrupt rock wall, oversized feather duster tube worms covered with brooding anemones. Excellent visibility, giant boulders speckled with thousands of tiny orange cup corals, big clumps of cloud sponges with skinny brittle stars oozing out of them between colossal rocks, all this on a background of copper that compromises the cliffs themselves.
Diving Highlights, Sayward
Kelsey Bay Breakwater–Shore-dive or snorkel
The tide flows through Chancellor Channel and Sutherland Channel to join the currents of Johnstone Straits, and then passes the corridor directly to the east of the Kelsey Bay and the ship breakwater. Immediate to the breakwater is the estuary marsh lands of the Salmon River, where the mix of fresh water and salt water make for some interesting marine life.
Although there is a lack of kelp in the vicinity there are numerous Technicolor invertebrates, tube worms, starfish, sponges, sea cucumbers and in the deeper reaches and along the walls there are forests of strawberry sea anemones.
Rock Bay - Shore Dive
Expect shear rock walls with copious invertebrate life, strawberry anemones and forests of bull kelp, creating a virtual world of bottom feeding fish with resident seals and a local colony of sea lions. This dive site is easily accessible by two wheel drive vehicle, with plenty of parking and easy access to the water at any time of the year.
The tidal current at Rock Bay can be swift at times and it is suggested that you check your tide tables before embarking on a dive in this area. Winds can pick up very quickly just off Chatham Point and this should be considered when planning your dive.
Diving Service Information Campbell River
It is of vital importance in all diving to be prepared for every eventuality. Tide and Current information on the Campbell River area is one of the most important aspects of planning your dive in the area.
Tide and current tables can be obtained by accessing the government web site at www.lau.chs-shc.gc.ca, click on Pacific - General Information: Tide and Currents, Data Available - then tide tables available in PDF form.
Weather Information Canadian Coast Guard
Phone: 24 hours 1 – 250 – 339 – 3613
Weather line: 250 – 287 - 4463 (shine)
Canadian Coast Guard (Comox Coast Guard Radio) Continuous Marine
Broadcast (CMB) recorded - 24 hour Cape Mudge radio forecast.
Chatham and in the Strait of Georgia telephone Comox:
Call 911, request “ambulance” and say “I have a scuba diving emergency.”
Vancouver General Hospital for 24 hour-7 day a week response:
Phone: 1 – 604 – 875 – 5000
and say “I want the hyperbaric physician on call.”
On Water Only
VHF radio: Call Coast Guard radio Channel 16 and say “I have a scuba diving emergency.”
Cell phone: 911, *16 or *311 and say “I have a scuba diving emergency.”
Rules regarding Scuba Tanks on BC Ferries
Persons transporting scuba tanks containing compressed air, whether partially full or completely full are required by law to declare dangerous goods at the ferry terminal before boarding any BC ferry. Persons shipping scuba tanks with the valves removed do not require authorization. All pressurized tanks with a UN3156 sticker, indicating nitrox or missed gases, are unacceptable – remove the valve.
To expedite Dangerous Goods clearance at the ferry ticket booth, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the vessel is scheduled to sail and complete a Dangerous Goods Shipping Document prior to your arrival at the terminal. Documents can be downloaded at www.bcferries.com. Insure you have included your name, home address and phone number; Class 2; UN 1002, which indicates compressed air; the number of cylinders you are transporting and the quantity of each one; most tanks are 2.27 cubic meters or 80 cubic feet.
Take note in order to obtain Dangerous Goods Clearance you require 48 hours notice. Complete the documents as described and if departing from Campbell River or Quadra Island fax it or email it before intended sailing time to the: