When snorkelling is mentioned around these parts, everybody’s first thought will be snorkelling with the salmon in the Campbell River.
But a new book from Harbour Publishing, Snorkelling Adventures Around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, shines a light on the region’s saltwater snorkelling opportunities.
Besides snorkelling with the salmon, the Campbell River area is also world famous for scuba diving but it takes a lot of expensive equipment and training to get into that sport. Snorkelling Adventures author Sara Ellison, however, offers up snorkelling as an affordable alternative.
It isn’t necessary to go deep to see the wonders of the Pacific. Spectacular nudibranchs, rainbow-hued anemones, dozens of sea star species and myriad nautical wonders exist just below the surface.
But unlike tropical snorkelling, where a mask and fins are all you need to dive in, snorkelling on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands poses a number of logistical conundrums to the beginner. How to stay warm in the frigid North Pacific? What are the best ways to deal with the tides, currents and weather patterns? And just what are all those strange-looking creatures?
Elison answers all these questions and more with this guide that will explain how to stay safe and avoid hypothermia while snorkelling. She describes over 50 excellent sites that offer something for the beginner snorkellers as well as seasoned free divers – and the majority of the sites in the book are accessible without a boat. In addition to covering where to go, Ellison also describes when to go. And her lively commentary is complimented by more than 100 photos – most of which she took – to help with species identification.
The book is broken down into five geographic regions: Greater Victoria, The West Coast, the Gulf Islands, Cowichan to Comox, the North Island (Campbell River and Beyond).
The Campbell River area has three specific Discovery Passage sites: Argonaut Wharf, May Island (off Quadra Island) and Row And Be Damned Cove (Quadra Island).
She says the Argonaut Wharf is the classic shore dive and “it’s pretty blooming amazing for snorkellers as well.” The wharf is easily accessible from shore and you are rewarded with an experience akin to exploring a waterlogged forest.
The book also has another Campbell River reference in the acknowledgements where Ellison thanks local diver and former mayor Roger McDonell and Greg Baldock of Oceanfix.ca Dive Centre for their hospitality in taking her out on Discovery Passage.
Ellison is described as a professional astrophysicist and a significant leader in the cosmology field. She is also an avid sportswoman, triathlete and world traveller. She lives in Victoria.
Snorkelling Adventures Around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands The Ultimate Guide by Sara Ellison is published by Harbour Publishing. Publishing date is March 11, 2023.