Archive for the ‘Scuba Diving’ Category
Americans love to celebrate warm weather by taking to the waters: surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, you name it. And while most of us would spring for a Caribbean cruise, there’s just as much to see up north, just across the border.
British Columbia in Western Canada boasts a bustling marine wildlife that’s sure to catch the eye of avid and novice divers alike. Diver Paul Kennell of CoolDives.com says the BC coast offers some of the most exciting diving in the world—and he would know, having plunged into the world’s oceans for the last 15 years. Legend has it that explorer Jacques Cousteau proclaimed the very same waters the best in the world for cold-water diving.
Those willing to dive into cooler waters are rewarded with an amazing encounter with the ocean’s flora and fauna. The waters of summertime BC are home to a collection of ubiquitous colorful fish, sea turtles, and friendly water mammals all too eager to cuddle up to divers. Giant sponges form ethereal underwater forests along with corals, anemones, and sea cucumbers, dotted with colorful sea stars and the occasional giant Pacific octopus. Practically every rock has a sprinkling of color on it, says Kennell.
One of the bigger attractions is the wolf eel, often playfully referred to as “puppies of the sea.” Their wart-laden faces and bulging eyes may take first-timers by surprise, but they are surprisingly warm—experienced divers insist that they’re among the friendliest creatures on land and sea.
Greg Dombowsky, author of Divers Guide Vancouver Island South and curator at Dive.BC.ca, says that the best underwater views in the North Pacific actually come during the winter, when the waters are much clearer.
When asked about the best diving spot in BC, most divers name Port Hardy, just before the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It is home to the Browning Wall, which houses a microcosm of Northern Pacific marine life and is widely recognized as one of the best wall-diving sites in the world.
Culture and history buffs will enjoy the stretch of ocean floor just off Nanaimo, where a number of aircraft and ships have crashed. Among the most popular sites are a Boeing 737 and a World War II supply ship. The sponge- and coral-rich Saanich Inlet, the Race Rocks Ecological Reseve, and Porteau Cove also come highly recommended.
All diving in Canada requires a diving certification, so make sure to plan ahead and look up the costs. Experts recommend taking a guided tour when the waters are cooler—local dive masters know their way around the waters and can direct divers to the most scenic spots.
If the ubiquitous dolphin swim is starting to get old, Cape Town, South Africa may have just the thing for you: shark diving. And we’re not talking the baby hammerheads that play at your feet in Hawaii. No, you’ll be tackling no less than the Great White Shark, one of the ocean’s greatest predators.
Shark diving is a relatively new activity in Cape Town. The city sits on the west coast of South Africa, where Great Whites lurk in abundance. Dyer Island, located some 100 miles from the town proper, is widely regarded as the world’s shark diving capital—the waters between the island and the mainland are known as “shark alley.”
The industry took off not long after the invention of the diving cage—the single barrier between you and the shark during the dive—by Australian diver Rodney Fox, himself a shark attack survivor. The term “diving” is used loosely here, though, as there’s usually no real diving involved. While some areas, such as False Bay, will require some diving experience, most shark dives only require you to snorkel, if even that. Sharks feed on the surface, so the cage doesn’t go very deep in the water.
A typical dive starts with a short ride out to sea, where the crew lures the shark to the boat with some raw fish. This step, known as “baiting” or “chumming,” will get a good number of sharks circling within an hour. The divers are then lowered to the water in the diving cage, which is connected to the boat with breathing tubes. Most cages hold four to six people.
From there, one can observe sharks up close in complete safety. Since they’re feeding on tasty livers, sharks will hardly pay any attention to the divers. And although no cage attacks have ever been reported, the cages are made with thick galvanized steel, which can withstand the shark’s powerful jaws.
Most dives last 10 to 15 minutes, but finding the sharks can take up to an hour. A typical trip lasts about half a day. You can usually get in two or three dives if the weather is nice and the waters are clear—make sure to book plenty of time as the conditions are hard to predict. If you’re not sure you want to look a shark in the jaw, you can stay on the boat and view the sharks from a special platform.
The best time to go shark diving in Cape Town is from May to October, South Africa’s winter. This is when the Great Whites are most abundant—divers have a 95% chance of seeing the sharks. Besides Dyer Island, other excellent diving sites include Mossel Bay, False Bay, and Gordon’s Bay.