A few years ago I got my Open Water Diver certification right here at home in Montreal. It was winter so naturally, I learned all about underwater breathing inside a deep deep swimming pool. I then passed my certification during the summer days, in a lake near Quebec. I saw not one, not two, but three live fish!
I know. Crazy! I should’ve played the lottery that day. But I didn’t. And while my scuba certification has served me well in past trips to Colombia, Panama, and Cuba, in 2017 I’ll be sticking around Canada. This time, however, I don't want to wrap myself in a wet suit 800mm thick and submerge in a smoky lake. So I did a bit of research and learned that Canada has some of the most incredible snorkelling experiences in the world. Really. I couldn't keep all this info to myself. So here it goes! Heads up, this is not your typical colourful, warm water, little fishies underwater promenade. But you will see, it may be just as unforgettable and unique.
"This is not your typical colourful, warm water, little fishies underwater promenade. But you will see, it may be just as unforgettable and unique."
This adds an item to my bucket list. Did you know that from May until mid -October, in the Cabot Trail area, you can snorkel with whales. Let me try that again: you can snorkel with w-h-a-l-e-s. You might spot huge 75 feet finback whales, humpback whales, pilot whales, minke whales or even dolphins. Similarly, snorkelling near St. John’s can be a spectacular trip. Just off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, the meeting of the cool Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream creates an abundance of marine life that attracts thousands of whales, and provides rich nesting grounds for millions of seabirds. Top that off with the clear and cool water, 10,000-year-old icebergs, and 500-year-old shipwreck history.
Ontario is blessed with incredible great lakes, many of which are host to all sorts of shipwrecks that attract marine life and divers. Popular dive sites you may want to check out include, the "Graveyards of Lake Ontario," the wrecks of Lake Erie, the 22 historic shipwrecks protected in Fathom Five National Marine Park just off of Tobermory (Georgian Bay), and the Kingston shipwrecks in the St. Lawrence River.
No, not a typo. You can snorkel in Quebec. Just like I was able to dive in Quebec! But a lot more fun: you can snorkel with seals. Don't believe me? Rick Mercer did it and reported on it. You can even combine this sure-to-be unforgettable experience with a visit to the famous Percé Rock, and a stay at one of the most beautiful off-the-beaten-path hostels, HI Anse-au-griffon , which is located right next to Forillon Park, where you will be snorkelling.
The Heber River is a little known and fantastic swimming, snorkelling, freediving, and scuba diving spot north of Campbell River. These guys filmed their way under the water and it looks really special. If you are not convinced, see what's happening in Nanaimo. Apparently, you can snorkel with seals here too! And I can only imagine what beautiful underwater landscapes you can find snorkelling in Tofino or Victoria. The later can have really variable visibility in the summer, ranging from 20-30' to only 2’. The fall and winter are of course cooler, but typically much better for visibility at the surface.
Before you get on a boat
A quick but important disclaimer: water up here can be… refreshing (that was a euphemism for “cold”). Be sure to inform yourself well before jumping into any body of water. Make sure you are aware of water temperature and conditions, as well as the potential dangers in the area (rocks, currents, etc). Be cautious. And don’t ever go it alone!
Now, get your mask, tuba and fins, and book your trip!