Snake Island Wall

Date Reviewed:September 2001
Location:Snake Island
Access:Boat dive
Site Description:Wall dive
Main Attraction:Shear, expansive rock wall, seals in the shallows

Snake Island wall is located on west side of Snake Island, which is a small, unpretentious island just outside of Nanaimo. There is not much on the island except seals, rocks, birds and grass. The wall side of the island is usually sheltered from the wind, but not always. If the wind is blowing, look out as it can get real rough at this dive site. Also, the famed Saskatchewan (a 366 foot Canadian destroyer) was sunk on the other side of this island intentionally as an artificial reef.

I really like this dive. Although the marine life here is not as overwhelming as that found in the Port Hardy area, life here is nonetheless diverse and plentiful. It also offers two very different dive terrains.

Above the wall area is a huge ledge that gradually works its way from Snake Island to about 70 fsw. The times I have been here, this ledge has been almost completely covered in kelp leaves, providing great cover for all sorts of fish. While cruising the ledge, expect to find large Lingcod, Kelp Greenlings, Pile Perch, Striped Sea Perch, nudibranchs, crabs, and rockfish. In addition, you may encounter a seal or sea lion or two that frequent this area. These mammals are usually spotted while swimming close to the island.

As plankton blooms tend to dominate this area in Summer and reduce vis on the ledge to about 10 feet, you best chance to see seals underwater is to dive this site in Spring or Fall when vis can easily reach 50 feet. Also, be careful when swimming with seals - they can not smell underwater, so tend to rely more on their sense of taste. If you have a hand sticking out, a passing seal may give you a quick nip to try to figure out what you are, and from what I here seal bites are very nasty. On one dive here, one of my dive buddies actually had a seal come up and nibble on his fins.

An interesting note about this site is that the Lingcod on the shelf are gold in color. They do not sport the spotted brown color that I normally associated with Lingcod. The golden color closely matches the color of the kelp leaves on the shelf, which I would guess is not a coincidence. If you look at the Lingcod pictures on this web site, you will see what I mean.

The ledge is cool, but the main attraction is the wall. Starting at about 70 fsw, the bottom drops away suddenly, and I mean a sheer drop to about 600 fsw. The structure here is very impressive and fun to explore. There are caves along parts of the wall and huge overhangs. Crevices, ledges, rubble piles and fissure populate the wall, providing sanctuary for all sort of marine creatures. Huge vase sponges can be found around 90 fsw. Cloud sponges are reportedly deeper. An occasion Tiger Rockfish can be found hiding, and colorful stars (including Feather Stars) and anemones dot certain parts of the wall. Lingcod can be found hiding on the wall, as can various varieties of rockfish, sculpins (including Longfin Scuplins) and greenlings. It is very easy to get deep here - as deep as you dare, so be careful, watch your depth, and stay within your limits. Also make certain to bring a good light.

Vis on the wall tends to be very good. I have not been diving here with less than 40 feet of vis on the wall. Plankton blooms are usually contained to the top 50 feet of water.

When diving here, we always head to the wall first, then spend the last part of our dive slowly coming up the ledge into the shallows, looking for seals. If you catch this site it 40 to 50 feet of vis, you are in for a treat. Also, if you are looking for a charter here, I have had great luck with Ocean Explorers. Ian, the owner, runs two small boats out of Nanaimo and does a great job.

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