Did you know that snorkeling in Victoria is so rich with sea life that Jacques Cousteau once referred to the West Coast of BC as one of his favourite places in the world to dive!
All Photos Courtesy of Mark Cantwell@pacificritters
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Just below the surface of Vancouver Island’s coastline is an amazingly diverse world of ocean life that is easily observable by snorkeling. And while snorkeling is an exponentially growing pastime among Island residents, many are also making the plunge to new depths by learning freediving. Freediving is the act of holding one’s breath and submerging rather than using SCUBA gear. Freediving as a sport is enjoying a renaissance as formalized instruction has become much more ubiquitous around the world - including in and around Victoria.
Pretty much all of Vancouver Island offers excellent diving – much better than areas around the lower mainland of Vancouver where beach access can be difficult, far from the city, and does not offer as much sea life to experience.
If you are considering freediving and snorkeling in Victoria, the first thing you must know is that local waters are cold - averaging 10C all year round. So unless you practice Wim Hof (another interesting pastime), you will need a hooded wetsuit, booties, gloves, mask, snorkel and fins – all of which you can find online or at local dive shops for purchase or rental.
But if you’re feeling even more adventurous and want to explore the flora and fauna at greater depths or even spearfish your dinner, then a course is highly recommended.
Instruction for snorkeling is available through the local dive shops. Freediving courses are offered through these regional freediving instructors:
Freediving and snorkeling in Victoria are weather dependent. Winds need to be light and waves calm (be sure to check BigWaveDave for local water conditions). Currents also have to be light which is why slack tide is the best time to dive. Finally, there is water visibility. While there is great biodiversity in our local waters, visibility is often very poor compared to the tropics. With ocean temperatures fairly constant all year round, winter generally offers better visibility owing to less organic material in the water column, as well as die-off of kelp and sea grasses that offer hiding places for sea life.
There are way too many species to list! But check out Mark Cantwell’s Instagram gallery (pacificritters) for examples of the regional biodiversity.
Mark is based in Victoria British Columbia and was finalist for Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020.
He also administers the largest snorkelling community in Canada on Facebook called Vancouver Island Freediving, Snorkelling, and Spearfishing where you can ask questions about dive conditions, equipment, and local sealife.
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