Location: Race Rocks is located 17 km southwest of Victoria, approximately 1.5 kilometers off the extreme southern tip of Vancouver Island at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and is the most southerly part of Canada's Pacific coast.
Type: Boat and drift dive
GPS: 48° 17' 58.19", -123° 32' 22.97"
Above Water: This very special place, called XwaYeN (pronounced shwai'yen), and was established as an ecological reserve in 1980. Race Rocks protects intertidal and subtidal communities that are extremely rich as a result of the strong tidal currents in the area. The protected area is comprised of a marine area of 251.40 hectares extending down to 120 feet, and a land area of 0.5 hectares (total 251.90 hectares). The land area of Race Rocks is comprised of nine islets, one of which, Great Race, is home to the Race Rocks light station, which is the second oldest lighthouse in Western Canada. These islets are also nesting colonies for many seabirds, such as gulls, cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and oystercatchers, and serve as a stopover for migratory birds. They share the rocks with resting harbour seals, Steller and California sea lions, and a few northern elephant seals.
Underwater: The walls, boulders, and kelp forests are abundant with life on each of the nine islets which make up Race Rocks. West Race Wall is one of the most beautiful underwater walls along the coast of British Columbia. If timed correctly, a photographer can spend up to an hour snapping away at this amazing spectacle. Anemones of all shapes and sizes adorn the wall, along with orange hydroids and hydrocorals. This is one of the few spots on Southern Vancouver Island to see Red Soft Coral. An abundance of fish and invertebrate life hide among the crags and crevasses. As great as the walls of Race Rocks are, the real attraction of this area is an encounter with the local pinnipeds. November through February are the best months for a great encounter. To have a chance to be buzzed by a courteous group of playful Sealions is a life altering experience. I cannot truly explain how amazing this is until you have been there and seen it for yourself.
Hazards: Current. Go with a charter operator who knows the area very well. Race Rocks is one of the most challenging and exhilarating dive areas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. With currents that often exceed 5 or 6 knots, the window for diving is limited to the slack tides that occur every 6 1/2 hours.
Information and history on Race Rocks: www.racerocks.com
Tides and currents: www.bigwavedave.ca
Caretakers of Race Rocks: www.pearsoncollege.ca
Lighthouses of British Columbia: www.fogwhistle.ca
Dive Charter Operators