Race Rocks and Swordfish Island Dive Review - November 6, 2010
Race Rocks Sea Lion Diving Adventures:
I was finally able to combine a visit to see my parents with a couple of fantastic Victoria, B.C. dives, including Swordfish Island and world famous Race Rocks and the Sea lions, both sites that have made our list as one of Vancouver Island's Best dive sites..
It was still dark when I left my parents house and headed to the peaceful town of Sooke to start my Victoria and Vancouver Island scuba diving adventure.
I had arranged for an early morning scuba gear rental package pickup from Scuba Stu’s Underwater Adventures in Sooke.
I knew he had top quality rental gear, including the semi-dry suit that I wanted since I haven’t dove in a dry suit for some time. Stu was there bright and early and had my dive gear all ready to go - excellent!
As I pulled away from his shop, I had to wait for a group of deer to walk off the road and into the fog - very nice.
The sun was just coming up (around 8:00 am) as I made my way through the fog to the Pedder Bay Marina where I was to meet Jessie Kunce of Pacific Pinnacle Dive Charters and my dive buddy for the day, professional underwater photographer Scott Stevenson from 8arm.com/Pacific Marine Imaging.
First Dive - Swordfish Island
Jessie had the slack tide planned perfectly so we quickly loaded up his dive charter boat along with two other divers – Kelly and Chris and were soon on our way to Swordfish Island.
I was a little envious as the other divers donned their dry suits while I donned my semi-dry, but I was excited to get into the water anyway.
Scott gave the pre-dive talk while everyone else finished getting ready, and then we were jumping in while several seals watched from the rocks.
Much to my surprise the semi-dry suit worked well and I was very comfortable. Who said our water was cold anyways?
It was great to be here and I was excited to begin our dive.
Down we went, through the floating kelp, and Scott lead us right to the swim through tunnel entrance, where the first thing I noticed was a small Puget Sound crab on the wall of the entrance.
It was high tide (at slack) and the tunnel was fully submerged.
As detailed on our Swordfish Island dive page, the walls and ceiling were totally covered with colorful marine life.
At one spot the sun shone through a hole in the ceiling of the tunnel, and along the way Scott was taking loads of pictures that hopefully we can post on cooldives.com.
As we exited the tunnel and looked up, the view was amazing!
Visibility was around forty feet and the forest of kelp looked alive as the light current made it wave while a school of black rock fish swam through it - very cool!
We hit a maximum depth of seventy feet and were down for about twenty-five minutes. We looked around a little more, and saw plenty of colourful marine life.
We also saw the remains of what must have been a large salmon before the seal had eaten part of it for dinner. With my air running low, we headed back through the tunnel to complete the first amazing dive.
We surfaced and Jessie quickly picked us up to take us to our next adventurous dive – Race Rocks!
Second Dive - Race Rocks
I was wet and in a semi-wet suit and it was November after all, so I’ll admit the wind felt a little cold as we crossed over to Race Rocks.
Luckily there was loads of room in the cabin so I sat there and drank the warm and comforting hot chocolate provided by Jessie.
After some snacks and a suitable surface interval time, it was time for our second dive – and I could tell right away it was going to be amazing!
As we neared the landmark black and white Race Rocks light station, we saw two things.
First there were about a hundred barking, splashing Sea Lions about 50 meters away on the island, and second there was another dive charter boat packed with divers.
I was certainly glad I booked with Pinnacle Charters as we had the Victoria dive charter boat and the area to ourselves!
Even though the other boat was there before us, Scott gave us a quick dive briefing and a warning about diving with these 500-1300 pound creatures, and then in we went, well before the other group of divers who were several hundred meters away.
I looked under the water while we waited for Scott to get his camera gear ready, and saw about a dozen Sea Lions swimming gracefully right under us.
I yelled to Kelly to look below her and when she looked up I could see a huge ear to ear grin!
I guess the Race Rocks Sea Lion Police hadn’t warned them away after all, hey Kelly? ; )
Race Rocks - Sea Lions Everywhere
Down we all went to a depth of around 15 feet and there we stayed for around 30 minutes – completely surrounded by Sea Lions and it was awesome!
Once again the Race Rocks dives were perfectly planned to be at slack tide, and after swimming through a forest of waving kelp we were surrounded by around 2 dozen playful Sea Lions (thankfully they were Stellar Sea Lions – not the huge California Sea Lions that were contempt just laying on the island).
The bottom was full of color and all types of marine life, such as anemones, red sea urchins, and more.
There was also sand/gravel, so we could easily rest on or near the bottom without doing any damage.
The whole time we were part of Sea Lion playtime!
These playful animals swarmed all around us – darting up, down, and in-between all of us. Some hovered effortlessly above us watching with their big brown eyes, while others swam inches away – so close you could feel the whiskers or their flippers brush against your body.
They gave an occasional nudge as they came a little too close, and every once and a while you’d feel a tug on your fins as they playfully teased their new friends.
Scott was going crazy with his underwater camera, with the Sea Lions loving, and sometimes hating, seeing their reflection in the camera dome/housing.
Some swam by, while others laid down in front of him on the sea floor like cute little puppies while he took some amazing close-ups.
One had enough of the close-ups and took a few little jabs at Scott, and even managed to puncture his brand new dry suit hood!
For a time I was behind the other three, watching and laughing as these gentle giants swam and played with us.
Scott was taking pictures, Kelly was watching, laughing, and playing with some of the Sea Lions who at times got a little too close for comfort, and Chris was teasing a young Sea Lion who was getting a little too friendly with him!
And just when I thought they were having all the fun, I looked behind me and saw them swimming all around me as well.
What an amazing experience!!
The tide began to change and the current picked up, reducing viz a little and making it so we had to grab hold of a boulder or chunk of seaweed to avoid being pushed away.
Scott got our attention and we followed him as our dive became a drift dive for a few minutes. Just around the corner we found some shelter and stopped again, to watch the Sea Lions who had followed us along.
After a few minutes the current picked up again and with our air getting low we called an end to the dive.
We followed Scott up after saying bye to our friends (who were still following us!!), swam clear of the kelp and into our waiting dive charter boat.
Kelly and I both had the same thought and as soon as we were on board exclaimed how awesome the dive was!
After a few stories, we pulled away and headed back to Pedder Bay. What an amazing day of diving!
The underwater pictures posted here were taken by Scott during our dive, and more are posted on his website - click the 8arm logo below.
Swordfish Island and Race Rocks – what a great day of diving in Victoria, British Columbia.
Thanks to Scuba Stu, Pinnacle Dive Charters, and 8arm.com.
Contact us to book your Race Rocks and other dives in and around Victoria, BC.