Hornby Island is located off the east coast of Vancouver Island, accessible by two short ferry rides it is one of BC's best kept secrets. Well, maybe it's not that big a secret!
Hornby Island is a beautiful island that wouldn't look out of place in the tropics, but it's too good for that! Long sandy beaches, clear water, stunning cliff top walks, forests, artisans, and home to one of our favourite places - Hornby Island Diving.
Rob and Amanda Zielinski run BC most respected and loved diving resort. For a lot of people that read this blog post, you may not know what to expect from a diving resort. Well, its eat, sleep, dive. Every day. We love it! Amazing home cooked food, fantastic and very British Columbian accommodations, family atmosphere (including the ducks!), and some excellent diving.
Rob and Amanda are ocean advocates through and through. They have their fingers in many pies, becoming involved in all manner of conservation, education and research projects through the year. Check out the kelp restoration video we made with them last year.
Hornby is known for its sea lions in the winter months, but it also has a stunning amount of diving all year round. Summer time is particularly enjoyable - blue skies, clear water and lots of life. The above video was made in just one weekend, proving there's much to see Beneath BC.
For more info visit their website, and give consideration to a stunning vacation full of fun and exploration - right here in BC. www.hornbyislanddiving.com
The May Island Ferry is a fun place to dip beneath the waves of BC. Located a short way from Campbell River the May Island Ferry is a former BC car ferry that sank a few decades ago.
It now rests in shallow water just off May Island and has become a habitat for lots of marine life. Due to the shallow nature of the wreck, there is an abundance of light - the more light, the more life. The May Island Ferry wreckage is now down to its bones only, which means there's lots of water flow moving through the wreckage, but also shelter from the current. All resulting in a great location for schools of shiner perch, sponges and anemones.
Maxwel Hohn is a local BC underwater photographer, drone pilot, commercial diving instructor and all round good guy. He's also one of our dive buddies and a fellow GH5 user. A few weeks back he invited us to head out with him and fellow photographer Ryan Miller to visit The Abyss, a freshwater dive site in Gold River, north west Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
The site is quite something. The soft limestone has been carved into an incredibly canyon by the Gold River's high winter water flow. During the summer the river calms allowing divers to jump in. Not only that but it's crystal clear and a lovely 20 degrees. Wetsuit time in Canada!
We never actually intended to make a video from this day, we were just out practicing and learning more about our Panasonic GH5 and Aquatica housing, but it soon became clear this site deserved a little bit of love! So we got a quick audio interview with Maxwel and slapped it together with a few clips. We think it turned out pretty well!
Gold River is also home to "Deep Hole" a lovely swimming spot / dive site / snorkelling spot on the Heber River, still inside the town of Gold River. You can check out our little video of that here.
For more of Maxwel's work visit www.salishsky.com
Here's a fun video we made for Destination BC and the Dive Industry Association of BC earlier this year. British Columbia has some incredible snorkel opportunities and adventures, literally a stones throw from your nearest beach. With over 27,000 km's of coastline, BC is actually a snorkelers paradise, and this time of year the water is lovely and warm! See for yourself, then go by a mask, fin and snorkel, and start discovering what lays beneath BC!
British Columbia has a new addition to its waters - the artificial reef YOGN-82. A former US WWII gasoline barge, YOGN-82 has been part of Catalyst Paper’s Powell River breakwater for some years, finally being delivered to it's new home this past Saturday by the Artificial Reef Society of BC. Over the coming years it will become a bustling marine life habitat and a welcome addition beneath BC.
If you want to explore this new marine habitat, you can book a dive charter through Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures.
This past World Oceans Day, we were invited by Hornby Island Diving to join them and Sea Legacy for a dive just outside of Hornby Island. Hosts Rob and Amanda Zielinski operate a dive lodge on Hornby Island, and for the last ten years have been integral to a BC initiative to regrow kelp.
A two minute boat ride from their dock brings us to Maude Reef, home of a DIY kelp growing area. Amanda and Rob maintain and seed the area, providing a unique marine habitat in an area no longer able to sustain one naturally.
Their work, their passion for conservation, and their message is truly inspiring, and shows that no matter how bad we think things are for our oceans, it's never too late to make a difference.
For more: www.hornbyislanddiving.com
Puget Sound King Crabs are one of the most beautiful creatures in the ocean. They look as if Jackson Pollack painted a Sherman Tank. Found from Alaska all the way down the Pacific Coast to California, these armour plated crabs feed on barnacles, urchins, sea stars, and other echinoderms - grabbing and subduing them with their colourful claws, the left claw crushes their prey, while the right cuts and prepares for consumption.
During a dive in the Parksville area of Vancouver Island, Trisha spotted this beautiful Puget Sound King Crab tucking in to a hearty meal of... er, rocks. What?! This is certainly something we've not seen before. Not content with the softer offerings available in the ocean, this chap was picking up rocks, nibbling on them, and then placing them back on the ground. Not small rocks either, but some pretty sizeable chunks demonstrating their strength and agility.
It's unclear as to why - maybe it was consuming algae or other bacterial mass that had accumulated on the rocks. Or maybe it was a simply taste testing a new aquatic culinary delight!
Campbell River is an area with some of the highest tidal exchanges in North America, this results in vast amounts of water moving through the relatively narrow Discover Passage at very fast rates. This high water flow (often with currents at 10-14 knots) brings in a huge amount of nutrients, which over time has resulted in walls of colourful life. Yellow sulphur sponge, finger sponge, strawberry anemones, purple and green urchins, rockfish, lingcod, cabezon, and even giant pacific octopus.
The life beneath this part of BC is some of the most dense, interesting and colourful we've seen. Normally this level of colour and life is more akin to Port Hardy. But Whisky Point, April Point Wall and The Rock, all I Campbell River are just stunning places to look, learn and love British Columbia's underwater world.
Look at that little guy - JUST LOOK! Stubby squid are teeny little cuties that often unnoticed during a dive, due to their size and ability to hide amongst the sand.
We found this little one in the sand near one of our favourite walls off of Parksville, British Columbia. We were looking at something completely different until we spotted this one sitting in the sand, walking, and burying himself before we parted ways.
We see them in the winter months on shallower sandy slopes. They move into deeper water in the summer to breed.
It's unique moments of interaction like this that make us fall in love with British Columbia and it's underwater world!
The stella sea lions of Vancouver Island, in this case Norris Rocks off Hornby Island, are a curious and cute bunch. The gently mouth on your hands, arms, and sometimes head, like a curious puppy dog. They're as curious of you as you are of them, and it makes for a fun underwater selfie!
We have to give a big shout out to BARE, they manufacturer our drysuits. A British Columbia company that make the best drysuits and wetsuits available. Not many drysuits can take the continued toothy abuse from these 2000 lb sea dogs!
November to February is the best time to do with sea lions, Big Animal Encounters offer scuba diving to both Hornby Island and Vivian Island in the winter, and to Vivian Island all year round for further diving and snorkelling adventures. Hornby Island Diving offer resort style adventures too.
Tuwanek is a small community on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia. A short drive from the town of Sechelt, Tuwanek is a little paradise along the Sechelt Inlet. The name is derived from one of the original four "septs" - division of the Sechelt Nation, located around Narrows Arm.
A handful of cottages sprinkle the coastline here (including a great one to rent), and a small but perfectly formed beach is the gateway to some of our favourite diving. The area is a designated marine park which means no fishing, and lots for divers and even snorkellers to experience.
A sandy bay lays between a right and a left dive site. The left offers some fantastic topography, gorgeous kelp forest and moon jelly smacks. Whilst the right is home to wolf eels, boulder fields, octopus and schools of perch.
Orange plumose anemones are aplenty, and tunicates cover a high percentage of surfaces at certain times of the year. A tunicate is a invertebrate animal and live in budding colonies, with each unit being known as a zooid. They are filter feeds with a water filled sac like body and tubular openings through which they draw and expel water.
They can be commonly referred to as sea squirts, but these little guys shouldn't be overlooked, they've been knocking around for over 500 million years!
There are over 2150 species of tunicate around the world, mostly living in shallow water. Tuwanek is often blanketed in them, making the harshest of boulders look soft and fluffy!
Tuwanek is also a fantastic place to go for a swim, kayak, or snorkel. It's an incredible place to discover the beauty of British Columbia's oceans.
This is the video that helped open a lot of people's minds to the prospect of diving in British Columbia. "It's cold and dark" gave way to "wow" and "it's gorgeous"!
We produced this video for Destination BC and the Dive Industry Association of BC, it was a huge success on social media and video platforms, and nearly three years after it was made, it's still one of the best example of what BC truly has to offer beneath the surface.
Nudi-what? Nudibranchs are found all over the globe and are often the focal point for many divers and photographers. They're kinda like Pokemon, you gotta see 'em all. There are about 2300 species around the world, and British Columbia has some of the largest and most spectacular, including the Giant Nudibranch.
You can think of these as "sea slugs" though that seems to be a little bit of a put down as nudibranchs are often very colourful and majestic looking creatures. Nudibranchs live anywhere from the intertidal zone, all the way down to depths well over 2000 feet. Locally we find them living on the rocky or sandy ocean bed, if you're very lucky you 'll get to see one swimming - they detach from the rocky or sandy bottom and wiggle themselves to "swim".
The giant nudibranch feeds on tube anemones. They stealthy move into position next to the anemones, being careful not to touch any of its arms and alert it to it's presence. Then they raise up like a cobra, and BAM! They strike...
The nudibranch likes to feed on the anemone's arms, but the anemone itself doesn't actually die.
The giant nudibranch can grow up to a whopping 24 inches in size, and be found from Alaska down to California.
This quick clip above was shot at Norris RYou can see these little guys on scuba dives, whilst snorkelling, kayaking, or even taking a walk around the sea wall at Stanley Park on a low tide. The brightly colour, often chubby little sea stars are also known as the ochre sea star, and we happen to love them!
This sea star is found all around the waters of the Pacific, and some say is often a good indicator to the general health of the intertidal zone. The sea star has five legs that can grow up to around 25cm. They have little suckers that allow them to stick to rocks and live in areas that have heavy surges or waves. They do not have a brain, but do have a nervous system.
These purple guys and gals live between four and twenty years, feeding on mussels, chitons, limpets, and snails. They use their teeny tube feet to handle their prey and open up shells. They can even evert its stomach through its mouth and engulf its prey, liquify it with digestive enzymes and ingest the processed food. Wowsers.
This quick clip above was shot at Vivan Island, just out of Comox harbour, a local dive site for us, and one of our favourites. Known for sea lions - which you can see cruising in the background, it also has some great macro life and this little collection of purple sea stars.
There's a lot to these beautiful and colourful marine inhabitants. Next time your at the beach on low tide, keep an eye open for their purpleness!
Did you know British Columbia has the largest species of octopus in the world? The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest of its kind in the world. So how many legs do an octopus have? In this case about 6! Two of this dudes legs were partly missing. Maybe another octo, maybe a sea lion tried to have a bite... we'll never know.
What we do know is that these amazing creatures, filmed here at Madrona Point near Nanaimo, BC, are beautiful animals, graceful, amazing swimmers and sometimes very curious about us clumsy humans!
Bonus info: This clip was all filmed on an iPhone! You can now take your iPhone underwater using one of these.
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the HMCS Chaudiere, a 366 foot long destroyer class Canadian Navy vessel that has become a successful marine life habitat. Last week we joined friends and divers from the Artificial Reef Society of BC for a commemorative dive on this fun, and thriving reef.
The SS Capilano is one of British Columbia’s top dive sites. The 122 foot long cargo steamship struck a submerged object at approximately 9:25pm on the night of September 29th, 1915. Captain Nelson was not immediately informed of the strike, as it was so soft crew members believed the vessel just hit a log, a common occurrence in BC waters. It was only when he heard the ship’s whistle echo off an island – in just 5 short seconds, that he realized something was seriously wrong, and the ship had veered off course.
The Captain steered the vessel towards a small port where the Capilano was inspected from bow to stern… no leaks. Nothing. Nada. Captain Nelson decided the voyage would continue. Around 1:30am on October 1st, 1915, the ship was felt to be listing to port. The crew were stunned to find around 2 feet of water already on board. It is thought that when the Capilano struck the submerged object, possibly a rock, it became wedged into the hull, like a cork.
Sometime later, it worked it’s way free and the water poured in.
At around 3am, the crew abandoned ship in a large lifeboat. According to testimony, the SS Capilano finally sank below the waves at approximately 5:30am on October 1st, 1915.
The ship lay undisturbed for around 60 years before it’s discovery by a fisherman in 1975.
The site of the SS Capilano is now known as one of the very best dive sites in British Columbia. Sitting in 130 feet of seawater the wreck is just within the limits of recreational diving, and is a fantastic dive, and training site for technical divers.
The SS Capilano is covered with life. If one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, then one Captain’s shipwreck is a diver’s gold mine. The SS Capilano is a giant, colourful condominium of pacific marine life at it most vibrant and healthy. A stunning site for photographers and videographers.
The cargo hold – now a giant open area to freely descend slowly into, like the belly of a beast, is a site to behold. Shining a light in the corners as you go, you’ll see a dozen or more lingcod scatter like rats in all directions. It’s quite simply stunning; the life here is insane!
Rockfish are in abundance of course. No BC site would be the same without our little punk rocker friends, with some occasional large ones dotted around, but general numbers are reassuringly positive.
Dive charters to the SS Capilano can be booked through Pacific Pro Dive & Marine Adventures. It's one of our favourite sites, with a rich mixture of history, marine life and adventure. Only beneath BC!
Swimming 50km in British Columbia waters isn't everyone's idea of fun, but for three ocean swimmers from Victoria it's a personal quest to help shed light on a unique ecosystem - the Great Bear Rainforest.
Proving that you don't have to be a scuba diver to learn more about what lays beneath BC, this Minimentary we made last year follows the three swimmers as the swim from Ocean Falls to Bella Bella.
Saanich Inlet, near Victoria, becomes a jelly haven during the summer months. Willis Point is a residential area overlooking the Inlet, but few residents there know that it's a BC jelly hot spot.
During July and August, parts of BC see a large increase in the numbers of moon, fried egg, and lion's mane jellies. Another fantastic hot spot is the Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast.
Moon jellies look like little moons, and at the time of this video, they weren't really there in their usual high numbers (we were a little early in the summer). Fried egg jellies look like, you guessed it, fried eggs. Lion's mane jellies have a huge trail of tentacles behind them, and are in fact the largest species of jelly in the world - found right here in BC!
Jellyfish aren't scary sea monsters waiting in the darkness to sting you to death! They are majestic, beautiful creatures that look more like aliens from outer space, than anything from this Earth. These jellies do have stinging cells all along their tentacles, however, the sting is mild with fried egg jellies, and a person wouldn't really feel a moon jelly sting even with contact. The lion's mane has a more potent sting. Though, everyone is different in how they would react. The lion's mane and fried egg can both sting if they touch exposed skin, however, their stings generally aren't that bad; not compared to other species of jellies in warmer waters.
We love jellies, and BC has some incredible encounters just waiting beneath the surface. They are fascinating animals and much fun to discover underwater!
Did you know: Jellyfish aren't fish at all! They belong to the same category of animals that includes corals and sea anemones. So why are they called fish? Good question, probably because they live in the water and in olden days anything that lived in the water was thought to be some type of fish.
The Heber River is a stunning part of British Columbia. Perfect for a swim, a snorkel, a scuba dive, freedive, or just a sunbathe! A few hours northwest of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, this location offers crystal clear water, amazing submerged rock formations, and at the right time of year, salmon by the thousands.
This video was taken before the salmon run, on a day of fun discovery, proving you don't need an ocean to explore underwater. If you're interested in exploring beneath the Heber, we'd advise you to go with a professional tour guide such as this one, or with someone that knows the area.