The temperate waters that encircle Vancouver Island create some of the richest diving on North America’s west coast. The nutrient-filled sea allows giant Pacific octopuses, towering kelp forests and loads of macro life to thrive. But those flowing waters also create one of the most thrilling drift dives in Canada. The swift currents that whip through Dodd Narrows seem tame at first. You enter at the back eddy just outside the pass, and as you descend you slowly start to feel the current pick up and start pushing you faster along the sheer wall on the Mudge Island side of the Narrows. It’s guaranteed to raise your heart rate, but don’t forget to take in the show — the wall is packed with anemones, sea stars, orange cup corals and red Irish lords. During the winter you might even be lucky enough to see sea lions feasting on salmon as you fly past. Another must-see in Nanaimo is the wreck of the Saskatchewan. This 366-foot former Navy destroyer is an artificial reef consistently rated one of the best dives in British Columbia. Its forward and aft guns remain intact, and the superstructure is thronged by marine life as varied as wolf eels, featherstars and plumose anemones.
Make It Happen
Sundown Diving runs two-tank boat trips for about $110 per person. Drift diving in the narrows is available during the winter months when there is less boat traffic. The cozy Buccaneer Inn offers studio rates from $66 per night, and they are located in a quiet section of Nanaimo just outside the bustling center.