The water in Hawaii is blue, off the island of Bali, it’s a dark blue. The waters of British Columbia are dark green to black on the surface, and a beautiful emerald green beneath the surface. In an act of irony, the cold waters of British Columbia are at their clearest in the coldest months of the year, roughly October to March. Some people are negative about the prospect of diving in my home province, having been spoiled by the warm waters they’ve been in on vacation. What they’re missing out on is nothing less than some of the finest diving in the northwest, and some starkly beautiful seascapes.
I admit, I was almost one of those afore mentioned divers. I’d gotten my basic ticket in a cold, dark lake in Alberta and then spent a lot of time in the water of Bali. Some friends and I were all home from Afghanistan, all a bit bored and all divers; so the natural thing happened. We set up a dive weekend where we hit the water off Quadra Island, a lovely location about a 20 minute ferry ride from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. We’d picked Abyssal Dive Charters because frankly, they were the best bang for our buck, with accommodations, full meals and two dives per day for a very, very reasonable price. We set out from Vancouver on friday afternoon, and after some navigational setbacks, we found our diving home for the weekend.
This was my first experience in the cold waters of the pacific northwest. I was in a 7mm farmer-john style wetsuit, and after several shortened dives, an aluminum 108 tank. My Sea&Sea 860G camera saw it’s last service here, and the proprietor, Earl Lowe, wasn’t exaggerating when he said I was going to get a lot of amazing photos. The three of us hit the water the next morning and I was left dumbfounded and in love with the coastal waters of my province all over again. We went to Copper Cliffs, The Galley, End of the Road and Whiskey Point over our stay, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return if the circumstances came up.
Diving off Quadra Island (at least where we were) can be described as gentle. No currents of note, visibility was 10m or more at all points, and the marine life was fantastic. All of our dives were boat dives, with live pick up as Earl expertly followed our bubble trail across the calm surface as we freely explored each area. Rockfish, Lingcod, Puget Sound King Crab, Sunflower Sea Stars, Red Irish Lords and more all awaited us beneath the surface, and my newly acquired copy of Whelks to Whales quickly came into use! Each dive had a good period of recovery afterwards, and the hot tub at the end of the day was nothing short of fantastic! Combined with homemade meals and comfortable beds, we had a weekend to remember.
The waters of Quadra Island are literally teaming with life, and while it may not be the archetypical coral reefs that many imagine when they think about scuba diving, it has a special charm and appeal all of it’s own. Vivid colours, abundant marine life and skillful dive guiding combined with freedom to explore made this one of my most memorable dive trips. Abyssal Dive Charters did an amazing job, and is close to both the dock and the local pub (extra points there!). I can quite honestly say I killed the battery on my camera each day. In closing I’ll say that if you can take the shock of the cold water (drysuit perhaps?) and want to see some amazing sights, Quadra Island is a good place to start.