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Some of the best cold water diving in the world can be found in wild, rugged and astoundingly beautiful British Columbia.

Diving in British Columbia

Quick facts

Most of the scuba diving in British Columbia happens from Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Other areas include the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and also inland for fresh water diving. Water temperature is chilly, averaging at 50°F (10°C) and dipping as low as 43°F (6°C) during winter months so a drysuit is recommended. Diving here is rewarding, with British Columbia often ranked as one of the best cold water diving destinations in the world. Visibility can be hit-or-miss but many reports note of better visibility during autumn months.

From mainland Vancouver, there is a large selection of dive sites which can be accessed by boat or from the shore. Diving here is suitable for new divers as the area is sheltered. For more excitement, head to Vancouver Island. Dive sites here feature steep walls, passages and shipwrecks. Most of the ships are purposely sunk warships to create an artificial reef. Currents are tidal and very swift around Vancouver Island so this is definitely a place for experienced divers. Some sites experience very rough conditions and can only be accessed during slack tides.

Around the Gulf Islands which lie just off Vancouver Island, immerse yourself in kelp forests or drift along with swift currents in channels like Proliers Pass. Channels are usually loaded with marine life and carpets of filter feeding soft coral and barnacles the size of your fist. Also try Flora Islet, where you might bump into a very rare sixgill shark. For fresh water diving, head to the crystal clear Pavilion Lake in Marble Canyon where you will see microbialites, a type of stromatolite that makes for a very unique diving experience.

When to go

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Water temperature

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What to see

The highlight of diving British Columbia would be encounters with curious and mostly friendly Steller sea lions. The best time to see them is during October to May off Vancouver Island. Besides that, the very rare bluntnosed sixgill shark can also be spotted around the Gulf Islands. Within the cracks and crevices at many dive sites, look out for very grumpy looking wolf eels which are actually fish that can grow up to 8ft (2.4m). Perhaps you might also encounter the Giant Pacific octopus.

Along the seabed, be stunned by the many colorful species of anemones, sponges, giant barnacles and unique species of nudibranch like the Dendronotus. Around kelp forests, expect to find multiple species of rockfish within a single dive as well as hundreds of sea urchins and sea stars. Moon jellyfish, lion’s mane jellyfish and fried egg jellyfish are also common in these waters.

British Columbia is also a great place to see cetaceans. From May through to October, join whale watching trips to see killer whales, humpback whales, pacific grey whales, and porpoises.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

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Rugged and beautiful, British Columbia is a destination for the outdoor adventurer. Located at the west end of Canada and bordered by the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia has 17,000 miles (27,000km) of coastline. It covers an area of 364,764 miles (944,735km) and has a population of 4.4 million people.

In the 18th century, British Columbia was known for its fur trade. This was followed by gold mining in the 19th century then other resource based industries like forestry, agriculture and fishing. In the 20th century, tourism came into the picture with the establishment of national parks and nature reserves.

The landscape of this province is brimming with variety and includes dry inland forests, arid valleys, mountain ranges, canyons, boreal forests, and subarctic prairie. In total, British Columbia has 7 of Canada’s 37 national parks and also 35 provincial marine parks. British Columbia sees a varied climate depending on where you are. Coastal temperatures are much milder than inland areas and different seasons offer different kinds of adventure.

Outdoor enthusiast will be spoilt for choice with activities like mountain biking, skiing, hiking, camping, horseback riding and rock climbing. Ocean lovers will be thrilled with activities like sailing, sea kayaking, fishing, whale watching and scuba diving.

Other attractions

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice in British Columbia. Choose from hiking or biking trails, camping, river rafting, rock climbing, and paragliding. Kayak the coastline, go fishing for salmon or halibut or head out to sea for whale watching. During winter, ski or snowboard at the many national or provincial parks or try dog sledding and snowshoeing.

Getting there

Fly to the Vancouver International Airport or Victoria International Airport on Vancouver Island. Vancouver International Airport is served by most international airlines while only a few airlines fly to the Victoria International Airport.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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