Vancouver Island Attractions: Nanaimo’s HMCS Saskatchewan Diving Site


The city of Nanaimo has a lot to offer tourists and residents. There is the Old Quarter district downtown, a ton of walking trails and nature spots, great restaurants, interesting history, and accessibility to Vancouver, Gabriola Island, and Newcastle Island.

There is yet another element to the city’s popularity not many know about, and it is located in the waters around Nanaimo, particularly Snake Island: the HMCS Saskatchewan.

This Vancouver Island Attraction is Easy to Reach and Filled with History

Accessible by boat just a few minutes from the Inner Harbour, divers can experience this world-renowned artificial reef that was sunk in 1997 by the Artificial Reef Society. The HMCS Saskatchewan is a former Destroyer that saw plenty of wartime action in her earlier days. She won battle honours for the Atlantic in 1943-44, Normandy in 1944, and Bay of Biscay in 1944, and of course she is mentioned a few times in Canadian history books.

Now she lays quietly in her subterranean world with numerous sea lions, harbour seals, the odd pod of Orcas, and the occasional scuba diver. This is considered an advanced dive as she lays about 24 to 30 metres (80 to 100 feet) under the surface. But if you make it there, prepare to be amazed at the sea life growing and swimming nearby! The Saskatchewan is covered with a layer of invertebrate life such as plumose sea anemones and countless barnacles.

There are Other Shipwrecks to Explore nearby as well

Close by the HMCS Saskatchewan, the HMCS Cape Breton has come to rest. One of the largest naval vessels ever sunk, she went down in 2001. She has less girth but is still worth a visit if you are down there.

For diving beginners, the Rivtow Lion is 15-30 metres (50-100 feet) deep and is located beside Newcastle Island, marked by a yellow buoy. A retired ocean tug, she has been a popular spot for divers since she went down in 2005. A special way to view her is at night, where creatures not visible in the day come out to play and eat.

Expect to See Many Underwater Sights and Treasures while Diving

You don’t have to go far to revel in the underwater displays of fish, sea mammals, and mollusks. The favorites you will likely see will be Wolf eels, giant Pacific octopus, and loads of cool looking flounders and fish with weird names like Decorated Warbonnet, Grunt Sculpin, and China Rock.

Geocaching is a very popular activity both on land and under the sea. When you book a dive with a group or if you just want to be on your own and with a guide, you can get a chance at finding treasure, though it’s not treasure as valuable as lost pirate booty. But the thrill is in the hunt, and you can get a chance at practicing your navigational skills, something every diver needs.

The Inner Harbour in Nanaimo is always teeming with activity, but not everybody knows it has some world-renowned diving sites like the HMCS Saskatchewan right beneath it. An artificial reef since 1997, she’s had time to grow some interesting marine life, and is always ready to be explored.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.

Publisher of Amazing Vancouver Island. Doug grew up in Kamloops and Vancouver. He is also the President of KIAI Angency, an Internet Marketing and Branding agency in Vancouver. He is an avid photographer and you can see his many pix of Vancouver Island on Flickr.

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