It has the largest land area and the longest coastline in the world, and it’s a haven for sports enthusiasts of all disciplines. High rocky mountains, low valleys, and deeps lakes make it the perfect recreational playground, and when it comes to scuba diving in Canada, the choice is endless.
Scuba diving in Canada is not as simple as it tends to be in tropical climates or equatorial countries. Although its waters can be very clear, strong currents can significantly reduce your visibility, and bearing in mind its proximity to the north pole, diving in some parts requires specialist training and equipment simply to beat the cold.
The waters off the west coast near the province of British Columbia are a diver’s dream for its diversity of marine life. Large squid and octopi, orcas and dolphins, wolf eels and corals live here in abundance. Head to the east coast and the cold salt waters off Newfoundland are brimming with military vessels, sunk back in the Second World War. Meanwhile the Great Lakes in Ontario are full of ancient wooden ships from the 1800’s, almost perfectly preserved thanks to the lack of salt in their environment.
The best months for scuba diving in Canada are from April to October, regardless of which site you choose. Visibility during the winter months can be excellent, and spring brings with it new life and migration of marine animals. But bear in mind that these months can be particularly cold, rarely, if ever, reaching above 13°C in the water.
Scuba diving in Canada is undoubtedly a popular pastime, and with such great access to the water, it’s little wonder that it ranks so highly on the list of sporting activities. Its large number of dive sites means that deciding where to dive is usually the greatest problem, but starting with east or west is the best idea – the country is simply too big to travel from one side to the other in a hurry.
British Columbia in the west is Canada’s outdoor capital. Although it's famous for skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and mountain biking, it’s also popular for water-based activities, particularly around the region of Vancouver Island. It also won the award for being the Best Overall Dive Destination in North America in 2011. One favourite dive site is Race Rocks, a collection of small rocky islands to the very south of Vancouver Island topped off with an undersized lighthouse. Part of an ecological reserve, the dive site operates a strict ‘no-touch’ rule to preserve its integrity. The site is regularly visited by orcas, California sea lions, and Alaskan fur seals. Plus, a large colony of harbour seals have made this site home.
Around Newfoundland and Labrador, the estimated number of shipwrecks has passed 8,000 in total. Some fell victim to the rocky landscape, while others were victims of the Second World War. Just off the mainland, Bell Island is the site of several shipwrecks which from WWII, all preserved in excellent condition and a popular location for experienced divers. Diving here is subject to some difficult conditions, including strong currents and the occasional passing iceberg, but the opportunity to swim alongside sperm whales is worth the effort.
For visitors and residents in Canada, finding a scuba shop is far from difficult, although the majority are located in the most southerly parts of the country, close to the border with the USA. Opportunities for diving here are plentiful, whereas the colder northern provinces attract very few divers.
Out Vancouver way, the Edge Diving Center is a 5 Star PADI outfit open every day of the year. As well as the usual courses and trips, they offer an excellent range of equipment, making them the perfect one-stop shop in for scuba divers in British Columbia. As well as diving in the local area, they also run trips abroad for like-minded water enthusiasts, and every Sunday they have an open dive day where anyone is welcome to meet at their dive centre, choose a buddy, and sort out car pooling. It’s the sort of laid-back, friendly atmosphere that diving is synonymous with.
Out east, the Ocean Quest Dive School is located on St Johns, Newfoundland, the furthest point east in Canada. This dive school has a monopoly on business this far out, but that doesn’t mean its standards have slipped. In fact, it offers a comprehensive service for divers, including wreck diving at the sunken WWII vessels to the north, and snorkelling with sperm whales. Take a trip on a sea kayak to explore sunken mines and hidden caves, or ride on a rib to the icebergs for a close up look at these natural ice formations in person.
Flying in and out of Canada is the best way of getting around just due to the sheer size of the country, but there are plenty of airports serving customers with both domestic and international flights. Another way to travel is cross country by train, but if it's a coast to coast journey, the trip can take several days and is often very expensive.
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the Sunshine Coast in BC is a vast divers and marine enthusiasts playground. On the coast there is no shortage of diving to do, from scuba diving the artificial reefs sunk for new habitat to the wall dives that can drop off to an unreachable bottom plus many dive spots for new divers to explore. the clear emerald waters of our coast are teaming with life that will excite all levels of divers.