At first glance, diving in Canada may seem as far-fetched as going snowboarding in Cuba! Still, Canada’s East and West coasts give rise to great scuba diving opportunities!
Among the eastern provinces of Canada are the Maritime group, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Otherwise, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario occupy most of the country’s eastern part.
Scuba diving is very interesting in all these provinces, but Ontario attracts the most divers. Ontario has a large selection of wrecks, river drift dives, and underwater villages. So the water may be cold and the visibility changing, but the dives are always memorable!
This article is a detailed guide to scuba diving and snorkeling in Eastern Canada.
Best Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in Eastern Canada
The best scuba diving sites
Scuba diving in Canada is superb, especially in Ontario’s Great Lakes. Many divers consider Ontario a world benchmark in terms of freshwater diving. Lakes in Canada’s Eastern Province contain 20% of all freshwater found on land.
The scuba diving sites to explore are numerous and are divided into sub-regions; here are some must-haves.
Pointe-au-Père, is part of the city of Rimouski, in the province of Quebec, and offers wreck diving. The city is where the St. Lawrence River becomes wider to become the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
There are several wrecks in the waters of the Gulf, including that of the Empress of Ireland. It is a ship that sank in 1914 and is nicknamed the Titanic of Canada.
The ship collided, not with an iceberg, but with the Storstad, a Norwegian ship, and sank in less than 15 minutes. There is more than 1000 dead in this tragedy. The boat now rests about 100 feet/30 meters underwater.
The Thousand Islands are a region of the St. Lawrence River located very close to Lake Ontario. In fact, despite the name given to the area, more than 1,800 islands lie in this part of the river that marks the border between Canada and the United States.
Scuba diving sites have many opportunities to dive from the shore on both sides of the border. If you want to dive from the shore of the American side, you must go through customs. Otherwise, sites accessible by boat from Canada do not need customs clearance. In short, the Thousand Islands are very popular for boat and camping enthusiasts in summer.
Kingston is located near the Thousand Islands region but is considered distinctly, with about twenty wrecks to discover! Besides, in the vicinity of Kingston, we find the “Lost Villages,” so the lost villages are buried under water.
These villages were buried under water following the creation of hydroelectric dams. One of the area’s most beautiful scuba diving sites is an old lock on the canal, which is now 30 feet/9 meters underwater!
Tobermory is a large lake located a few hours north of Toronto. This is one of the best places to dive in Canada, with incredible visibility and over 25 wrecks to explore in shallow water.
Fathom Five National Marine Park is another must-see destination for divers in Canada. There are about 25 wrecks inside the marine park and many opportunities for discovery for technical and cave divers.
Opinions on Scuba Diving in Eastern Canada
Scuba diving options in Eastern Canada are very diverse. First, diving is in the Great Lakes, Ontario, Erie, Superior, and Huron. Then it is possible to dive into the St. Lawrence River or the Niagara and St. Clair rivers. Then there are a few other interesting lakes and streams to dive into.
According to the Ontario government, the country’s approximately 250,000 lakes contain about 1/5 of the world’s freshwater reserves. Most of these lakes are small and in remote areas, but a few hundred are accessible and larger. Also, beyond the 3 rivers mentioned above, there are more than 100,000 kilometers of other rivers and streams to explore.
It is important to note that to dive in Quebec, you will need to hold a special permit. The province has its own rules on scuba diving, and these are governed by the Fédération Québécoise des Activités Subaquatiques (FQAS). Most of the diver certificates awarded by the FQAS are compatible with other international agencies and certificates. It is, therefore, a question of obtaining its equivalence to dive into the province.
Quebec divers must always have 10 cold water dives to their credit to renew their certificates every 3 years. Also, for the diver who comes from elsewhere, it is necessary to be able to dive in cold water. You can consult the regulations for scuba diving in Quebec on this page: Regulation respecting the qualification in recreational scuba diving.
Prices of dives in Eastern Canada
Rates for diving in Eastern Canada vary by region but mostly by the type of dive. Here is still an overview of the average price of dives for Eastern Canada
2 dives with equipment: +/- 80€
Specialization PADI – drysuit diving: +/- 150€
Price Course level 1 / Open Water: +/- 450€
Price Course Level 2 / Padi Open Water Advanced: +/- 300€
Price Course Level 3 / Rescue Diver: +/- 300€
Emergency First Response at +/- 100€
Divemaster: on request from the various diving centers but about 700 € and more.
We advise you not to look only for the lowest rate but choose your dive center according to where you feel best. Sometimes it makes sense to pay a little more and be in better conditions!
Best time to dive in Eastern Canada
The summer season is ideal for a trip to many activities in Canada since the warm temperatures and diving are very good. That said, the best season to dive in Canada is winter… Yes, yes! The water temperature changes very little at a certain depth, but visibility greatly improves in autumn and winter.
There are two specializations of scuba diving that it is very interesting, even mandatory, to have to dive in Canada. All required specializations are offered at scuba diving centers across Canada. These include the specialization of dry suit diving and wreck diving, and drift diving certificates.
Scuba diving conditions
Scuba diving conditions in Eastern Canada vary greatly, given the size of the territory. Indeed, this implies regional variations, also as seasonal variations.
As a rule, even in summer, scuba diving in cold water. Even if the water’s surface warms up, as soon as you go down a little, we find the thermoclines, those layers of water where the temperature drops precipitously.
As for visibility, it is optimal in winter, with more than 100 feet / 30 meters on most dive sites. Then, depending on the sites you want to dive on, you should always be informed about the weather conditions. Some sites are in bays or lakes, while others are exposed to marine currents whose intensity may vary.
Snorkeling in Eastern Canada
Since many dive sites are accessible from the shore, it is also technically possible to do snorkeling. It should be remembered that even in summer, the water is cold, so we usually wear a dry suit. The Tobermory area is very good for wreck snorkeling.
Here is an example of a dive center that offers a snorkeling excursion to Tobermory: Diver’s Den – Tobermory, Canada
Otherwise, Canada is not a particularly attractive destination for snorkeling… for this, we must look at the Caribbean or the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico!
Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral
The variety of marine life found in Canadian waters will surprise many! Freshwater fish species are many, as are whales and certain types of sharks that can be seen in large streams.
If you are planning to go on a trip to Eastern Canada, I advise you to invest in good travel insurance that also covers scuba diving. You never know what can happen, and good insurance can get you out of difficult situations.
Finally, whether you want to learn about cold water diving or are already an accomplished diver in a dry suit, Eastern Canada is to be discovered!
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