When it comes to underwater destinations, Canada probably isn’t top of mind, though it certainly should be. While most divers and shipwreck-explorers tend to gravitate towards the Caribbean and other tropical locales, they’d be wise to immerse themselves in all the aquatic adventures awaiting in Canada, a country with a seriously under-the-radar underwater scene. From the fresh water diving capital of the world to narwhal excursions off Baffin Island, here are some of the many ways you can experience Canada from a whole new vantage point.
Little known fact: Ontario is the fresh water diving capital of the world, and it’s got the myriad shipwrecks to prove it. The deep fresh water lakes here provide myriad opportunities and sights for seasoned divers looking to explore something new, like the 22-plus shipwrecks dotting the Lake Huron floor of Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory. The park itself is overwhelming in its beauty, lined with striking rock formations, islands and lush forests abutting the shores. Not only is the lake filled with unique sights, but its crystal-clear waters afford a vibrant look at everything the park has to offer. Like the China dive site off China Reef, where a 38.1-meter schooner was broken up into bits and scattered along the lake floor. Or the Avalon Voyageur II, a motor ship that once served as a floating restaurant before catching fire and submerging in Hay Bay. Along with numerous other shipwrecks, divers and snorkelers can view underwater caves, rocks, wildlife and more.
Considering how arctic and glacial vast portions of Canada are, there’s plenty to discover beneath the ice. One of your best bets for such other-worldly experiences is a Baffin Island Dive Safari with Arctic Kingdom. Located on Canada’s Northeastern shores, the island is the country’s largest, providing ample opportunity for adventure and exploration, especially when it involves icebergs and drifting pack ice. The dive safari takes visitors to the arctic sea floor with an adept “dive master,” where they’ll encounter enchanting wildlife like narwhals, belugas, ringed seals, bowhead whales and possibly even polar bears along the floe edge, also known as the “line of life.” For those who prefer to keep things a little closer to the surface, the island also offers snorkeling, kayaking and land activities like bird-watching on the incredible Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, and the country, reefs off Vancouver are filled with a kaleidoscopic abundance of fish. One of Canada’s best locales for swimming with wildlife, Porlier Pass is a 650-meter channel between Valdes and Galiano Islands in the Pacific. Craggy, colorful reefs line the underwater Alcala Wall, where divers will find themselves surrounded by fish and sea lions, not to mention basket stars, sea pens and acre after acre of billowy and beautiful white plumose anemones. More wildlife awaits at Alcala Point, home to wolf eels, which aren’t nearly as aggressive or scary as their name suggests. Of course, this being a reef, shipwrecks sort of come with the territory. Check out the wreck of Del Norte, a 60-meter schooner resting by the Northeast entrance of Porlier Pass.
Thanks to Ocean Quest Adventures, a fixture on Bell Island in Newfoundland, you can actually drink an iceberg. Easily one of the most unusual and unexpected highlights of all of Canada’s aquatic highlights, this rare opportunity awaits for those looking to take their iceberg experiences one giant step further. Of the excursions offered by Ocean Quest Adventures, which also includes snorkeling with humpback whales, this one takes travelers out on a boat to small icebergs bobbing and crackling in the open ocean. The boat gets so close that you can reach out and touch the iceberg, as the skipper cuts off a piece to use as an ice cube for drinks.
Written by Matt Kirouac
Read more posts by Matt Kirouac