Canada is often interpreted as the quiet, pretty country that no one really seems to shout about. But as it boasts the longest stretching coastline in the whole world, we figure it’s definitely worth mentioning and most certainly worth a visit! Not only that, but Canada is the largest in terms of land area too, meaning there’s plenty to explore when you’re not submerged scoping the waters for fascinating marine life. With masses of rocky mountains, deep lakes, low valleys and a diverse climate, the topside landscape of Canada is just as beautiful as the stunning scenes that can be found under water.
The large majority of Canada’s dive sites are located to the west and east of the country in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. These areas and Canada in general is known largely for its fascinating wreck dives, although there are a number of freshwater dive sites as well as some very unique cold water dive spots well-worth exploring.
Unfortunately thanks to significant currents and of course the colder-than-average conditions, diving in Canada isn’t as simple as ‘kit up and go’. Some dive sites require you to have specialized training and special scuba equipment to protect yourself against the cold conditions. This is far different to diving in tropical waters and those areas that are closer to the Equator, but with Canada being so close to the North Pole it is understandable why certain precautions need to be taken.
If marine biodiversity is what you’re after, look no further than the west coast nearby the beautiful province of British Columbia. Here you’ll find plenty of marine life in all shapes and sizes including wolf eels, orcas, large squid and octopuses and dolphins too. The variety in coral life is also spectacular. The east coast of Canada is covered in fascinating wreck sites from WWII, especially in the chilly salt water close to Newfoundland. Military ships are in abundance here and are a great option to explore. Another area that hosts a number of ship wrecks is Ontario’s Great Lakes region. The wrecks in this salt-free environment are well-preserved wooden vessels from as far back as the 1800s.
Best Diving Destinations in Canada
For many active Canadians, scuba diving ranks very highly on their list of loves. Most Canadians participate in an impressive list of sports activities and past-times that involve being outdoors with an adventurous spirit.
Since Canada boasts so many different dive sites, the most difficult part is deciding which side to dive – east or west. Although it is possible to fly internally or catch a train, it is not a very time-effective decision and most people tend to stick to one side of the country per scuba diving trip.
British Columbia is the outdoor capital of Canada, famous for all sorts of extreme sports including snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking and hiking. British Columbia also boasts a number of fantastic water-based opportunities, especially in the area surrounding Vancouver Island. A firm favourite on Jacques Cousteau’s list of top 10 dive sites, Vancouver Island won an award for the Best Diving Destination in all of North America back in 2011. One site that is particularly special is that of Race Rocks, an island to the south of Vancouver Island. Race Rocks forms part of a well-run ecological reserve that abides by a very strict ‘no-touch’ policy. Both Alaskan fur seals and harbour seals call this area home and there are also orcas and Californian sea lions that find their way into the reserve.
Another park worth taking note of is the Five Fathoms National Park located just to the north of Toronto. Situated right in the middle of Georgian Bay and the stunning Lake Huron, the freshwater site is filled with dive spots boasting everything from walls and caves to fantastic wrecks. The park’s Wetmore Steamer is one of the more popular wrecks that divers choose to explore. Built back in 1971 and wrecked since 1901, the wreck remains in great condition considering its age, and is accessible to even beginner divers thanks to its maximum depth of only 30 metres.
An insane 8000 odd wrecks have been discovered around the areas of Labrador and Newfoundland, many of which now lie at the depths of these waters as a result of hitting the rocky underwater landscape beneath the waves. For experienced divers, an ideal spot to visit a number of wreck sites at once is Bell Island where many of the wrecks are a result of WWII. These historical sites are extremely interesting and very well-preserved. Diving off Bell Island can be subject to quite difficult diving conditions at times, especially when the currents are strong or when there happens to be an iceberg passing along. The area more than makes up for these difficult conditions with the rare but possible opportunity of swimming alongside the majestic sperm whale.
Getting to Canada
Canada is an exceptionally large country and so the best, most time-efficient way to get into and out of this expansive country is to fly. Canada boasts a number of international and domestic flights. It is possible to take alternative methods of travel such as making use of Canada’s long-stretching train network, however this isn’t time or cost effective if travelling from coast to coast. If you were to take a train along this route it would take a number of days and incur additional expenses when compared to air travel.
When to Visit Canada
Although diving in the winter months is likely to offer fantastic visibility, it will also offer freezing cold waters suitable for only the most extreme or most dedicated divers. Water temperatures are highly unlikely to rise above a cool 13° C and even once it is springtime and the marine life begin to migrate the water temperatures remain very cold. With all this in mind, many divers opt to schedule a visit to Canada in the warmer months of April through October. The warmer weather will make whichever dive site you choose just that much more pleasant and the water temperatures will be manageable and enjoyable.
Where to Stay in Canada
Regardless of where you choose to dive in Canada, finding a dive operator should not be a problem as there are far more dive shops than one would think. The majority of operators can be found nearest to the USA border where diving is more popular than in Canada’s northern provinces. If your heart is set on diving in the north though, it would only take a bit of research and you’d easily find an operator that is either located in these far flung areas or is willing to take you there complete with wonderful Canadian hospitality.
Dive centres are plentiful near Vancouver in British Columbia, with some of them open all throughout the year. These dive shops tend to offer much more than just scuba trips, with an array of training courses on offer and equipment for sale too. Some dive shops even help to coordinate trips to dive spots that are further afield. Divers will meet at an arranged dive shop, pick a dive buddy and arrange transport to reach whichever dive site they decide they want to dive that day.
There are also dive shops available inland, although they are few and far between and tend to be centred around the famous Lake Huron where the wreck sites are plentiful. Again, even these inland dive shops organise more than just dive trips every day of the year – they provide the opportunity to do PADI scuba courses and even hire chartered boats out to individuals wanting to explore on their own terms.
Very few dive shops are located in the far east of Canada, but the one or two that are offer fantastic service and will not leave you disappointed. Offering wreck dives and snorkelling opportunities with giant sperm whales, these dive shops have even branched out to offer sea kayaking trips or boat trips to get up close and personal with Canada’s icebergs.
As you can see, although Canada is an expansive land and one where you might think scuba diving is not much of a priority, there are plenty of opportunities to arrange some fantastic diving to accompany your holiday in this friendly and scenic country.