It’s no secret that the coastal waters of British Columbia offer some of the best scuba diving in the world.
Leading dive magazines have consistently selected BC’s waters — known as the Emerald Sea — as North America’s best dive destination. National Geographic Magazine has recognized Vancouver Island as one of the best cold-water diving destinations found anywhere, and the Jacques Cousteau Society has even recognized BC's coast for its diversity of marine life and water clarity.
A better-kept secret is when to come. BC’s sea life is vibrant and plentiful year-round, but local divers agree that winter is best. That’s when the view-obscuring plankton dies off and visibility can reach to 30 metres (100 feet), with water clarity rivaling that of the most popular Caribbean dive sites.
Top dive sites include Porteau Cove Provincial Park and Whytecliff Marine Park, two marine sanctuaries in Howe Sound near Vancouver. The Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, boasts dozens of dive sites, including Saltery Bay Provincial Park, home to the Emerald Princess, a sunken, 3-meter (10-ft) bronze mermaid statue, and Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park, where divers can explore the wreck of the warship HMCS Chaudière.
The waters off Vancouver Island are home to giant Pacific octopus, wolf eels, rockfish, ling cod and the elusive six-gilled shark. In Brentwood Bay, just north of Victoria, divers can visit the Glass Sponge Gardens, a sea mountain covered with sponges thought, until recently, to have been extinct. Off Thetis Island, near Chemainus, a 737 jetliner sits below the surface, awaiting exploration.
Divers flock to Nanaimo, midway along the Island's eastern shore, to explore the area’s sunken wrecks, including the HMCS Cape Breton, one of the world's largest artificial reefs. Farther north, the current-swept waters around Campbell River and Quadra Island are famous for their colourful wall dives and prolific marine life.
Near the Island's northern tip, a short boat ride from Port Hardy, is God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park. This sheltered cove makes a perfect home base to explore the surrounding dive sites like Hunt Rock, Nakwakto Rapids and the legendary Browning Wall, known as one of the best wall dives in the world.
For more information, visit www.HelloBC.com; www.diveindustrybc.com