Some of the best cold water diving destinations in the world are on Vancouver Island. There is something special for both new and experienced divers. The waters off Chemainus have natural and “man made” reefs which are home to Cloud Sponge , Octopus, Rock Fish, Wolf Els and a host of other varieties of sea life. Seals can also be seen on some of the reefs.
Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are in a temperate climate zone. The water temperature varies only by a few degrees between summer and winter. The best diving visibility is in the winter.
You can dive Chemainus and discover the world’s first artificial reef made from a sunken Boeing 737 plane.
The Sunken Boeing 737 Artificial Reef
In 2006 the Artificial Reef Society of BC sunk a de-commissioned Boeing 737 in the Stuart Chanel near Chemainus. The reef is named The Xihwu (pronounced key’ quot) which is the local First Nations word for Red Sea Urchin which are in abundance.
The reef is protected by Gulf Islands to the east and Vancouver Island to the west. The reef (sunken 737 plane) is about 30 meters (100 feet) below sea level. It is about 5 meters (15 feet) off the ocean floor. Divers can enter and swim the full length of the fuselage. You can grab a picture sitting in the captain’s chair.
In just a few years the Xihwu reef has attracted over 100 species and has become one of the most popular scuba diving sites in the region.
Shipwrecks off Chemainus
In addition to the 737 artificial reef there are a number of other reefs created by shipwrecks over the years all offering unique diving experiences.
For experienced divers there is the wreck of the Del Norte, a 60 meter (190 foot) steam side-wheel schooner. This reef is in the Porlier Pass, between two Gulf Islands, Valdes and Galiano.
There are a dozen other popular diving sites in the Chemainus and Vancouver island region, offering a variety of different places to survey shipwrecks or enjoy the marine life of the Salish Sea.
The Salish Sea
The Salish Sea is an overall embracive term to describe the waters from the north end of the Strait of Georgia and Desolation Sound to the south end of the Puget Sound and west to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, including the inland marine waters of southern BC and northern Washington state.
Cold Water Diving
To be comfortable diving in these waters you will want a 7mm wetsuit with gloves, boots and hood. If you are planning multiple dives you should consider a dry suit.
Getting To Chemainus
Chemainus is right off Highway 1, the main north-south highway on Vancvouer Island – about a 20 minute drive from Nanaimo to the north and about 1.5 hours from Victoria in the south. Watch for signs for Chemainus, or the Penalakut (formerly Kuper), Thetis Island ferry. Look for the BC Ferries terminal which can take you to Thetis Island. Check the sailing schedule in advance as it is not frequent.
Chemainus and Area Dive Operators
49th Parallel Dive Charters
A top dive operator to dive the 737 reef is 49th Parallel Dive Charters. They are located on nearby Thetis Island which you can get to via a BC Ferry trip from Chemainus. They can service larger groups but they specialize in smaller groups of up to 8 divers. Their boats include a custom 37 foot cruiser and a 17 foot catamaran.
Gulf Islands Explorers Ltd.
Gulf Island Explorers provide scuba diving, sightseeing and fishing throughout the Gulf Islands. There is a certified dive master available upon request. Dive tanks and air are included in the fees. Onboard services include meals and beverages.
Contact info: Gulf Islands Explorers Ltd.
Gulf Islands Explorers Ltd, PO Box 494, Chemainus, B.C. V0R 1K0
Toll Free: 1.877.245.9559 Phone: 250.246.9559 Mobile: 250.246.7866 Fax: 250.246.9559
Email: email@example.com www.gulfislandsexploers.com
There are also dive outfitters and charters out of Nanaimo.
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