Barkley Sound diving; The Emerald Experience
Barkley Sound is roughly a big bite taken out of the West Coast of Vancouver island. In a triangle it is enclosed by Bamfield in the south, Ucluelet to the north and Port Alberni in the middle. Coming from Port Alberni and going south, you descend the Alberni inlet to where it meets the Barkley Sound. Inside, a maze of islands unfolds and offers a stunning landscape. The Broken Islands group in the west are part of the Pacific Rim National Park.
National Geographic Magazine recognized Vancouver Island as one of the best cold-water diving destinations in the world.
Jacques Cousteau called BC the second best place on the planet to dive — right after the Red Sea.
Jean-Micheal Cousteau called BC “the best place to dive in the world” in an interview in 1999.
Rodale’s Scuba Diving Magazine rates British Columbia as the worlds best dive destination for:
Best overall dive destination, Best North American value, Best Macro Life, Best Fish Life, Top U/W Photography,
Second for Places to Dive with Big Animals, Healthiest Marine Environment, Best for Advanced Diving,Best Wall Diving, and Third Best for Wreck Diving,
Barkley Sound has some of BC’s very best diving so don’t deprive yourself of a great dive trip!
Barkley Sound diving; ecology
Barkley Sound offers a unique richness in both plants and animals. Underwater you will find a rich diversity of fish, invertebrates, marine mammals and kelp forests. Salmon, rock-fish, herring, squid, giant octopus, sea otters, seals, and sea lions are all permanent residents. Others like orca, grey- and humpback whales, Puget Sound King crab, sea pens, and six gill sharks add flavor to your dives and make your stay unforgettable. In the majestic forests you may find everything from beavers and otters, to bears, cougars, eagles and many more species. They form integrated eco-systems with the life in the water.
Barkley Sound diving; climate
With the British Columbia climate, a lush and ever green landscape has developed. Although certain spots on the island get a lot of rain, it can be said that the climate is mild. In summertime it can be as warm a 35° C (103° F) but there is always a nice cooling breeze. Due to the ocean’s influence, it never gets very cold, but in the winter there can still be snow and temperatures can drop to -10°C (12°F). Luckily, the islands, coves and inlets of the Sound provide good protection against winter storms and allow year round diving.
Barkley Sound diving; diving conditions
The water temperatures vary between 8-10°C (48-50°F) in the winter, to around 19° C (70°F) in the summer in the top 20 meter (66 ft) layer. Visibility is best in winter with 30+ meters (100 ft+). In June the algae blooms may reduce the visibility to a mere 10 meters (30 ft) in the top layer, but most of the time the visibility stays good once you are deeper than 12 meters (40 ft). The abundance of life is year round and the kelp forests can best be seen in the summer or autumn.
Barkley Sound diving; dive sites
It would go too far to describe all of our dive sites, but to give you an idea of what you can expect, we give you a general description of the most frequented sites. Remember that a dive site may yield very different experiences depending on time of year, weather and luck.
Renate Reef is located in the Imperial Eagle channel. It features lots of invertebrate life as well as a wealth of fish. This pinnacle with it’s large flat top is home to giant octopus, wolf eel, lingcod, strawberry anemone’s, ratfish, rockfish and many other colorful creatures. One of the top locations in the Barkley Sound and BC!
Chup point is heaven for the macro photographer. Scores of small and larger invertebrate life color this shallow reef. It’s depth allows for longer bottom time and more natural light for your photos. Nudibranches, sea pens, anemones, scallops, purple ring top snail, doris, orange peels etc. Too much to mention. Our guests’ underwater photos speak for themselves.
The Vanlene was a freighter which ran into Austin Island in 1972 in thick fog. Loaded with Dodge Colt cars it took a number of days to sink and most of the cars were recovered. The wreck lies with it’s shattered bow in 25 feet of water and going towards the mostly intact stern, you will encounter lots of life on this wreck. Rockfish schools around the boiler midship, as well as pudget sound kingcrab. Friendly seals sometimes great you and while on the boat, whale visits are common in the early summer.
This reef lies on the outer edge towards open ocean not far from the Vanlene. It is a densely populated reef with large numbers of Red Irish lords as well as octopus, wolf-eel, and nudibranchs. Because it is so exposed this reef is not always an option for diving, but when you can dive it, this reef will give you an unforgettable experience.
Mahk reef, also known as Ratfish city, is a collection of parallel running reefs. This site has a lot to offer. Beside the usual life like friendly wolf-eel, octopus and lingcods, this site is home to a large population of ratfish, closely related to sharks and rays. These creatures normally live at greater depths, but in the summer they come to shallower waters. On occasion their cousins, large skates, are seen on the sandy patches between and around the reefs.
Kyen point in the Imperial Eagle channel consists of 2 pinnacles, separated by a sand channel. During the summer you can swim in the kelp beds between the pinnacles. Wolf eel and octopus are among the permanent residents and occasionally sea lions or seals hang around. A large wall of strawberry anemones makes an astonishing home for a wide variety of invertebrates.
You want six gills? Here’s the place to go. This small pinnacle in the intersection of the Alberni Inlet and the Trevor channel is one of the places where you can see these ancient sharks. Between June and October they regularly make their appearances. Other than the sharks you can see giant octopus, wolf eel, lingcod, strawberry anemones, ratfish, rockfish and even the occasional sea-lion or even a humpback whale.