Return to Hornby Island

Our 2016 Hornby Island dive trip finished up this month after a beautiful long weekend with Hornby Island Divers. Our group included scuba divers from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. The owners of Hornby Island Diving, Rob & Amanda Zielinski, do an amazing job with both diving and lodging.

Steller Sea Lion at Hornby Island, BC

Steller Sea Lion by Thomas Robbins

Saturday, our first day, had few Steller sea lion encounters as the Steller sea lions had been gorging on herring and were so full they could barely move off the rock outcroppings where they spend most of their time resting and sunning themselves. Even without the Steller sea lions, there was still lots to see, including Puget Sound king crab, Canary rockfish, and Lingcod.

The Steller sea lions were much more active on Sunday, and we had lots of encounters on both dives. Steller sea lions are playful and curious  and are rarely aggressive towards scuba divers. They do need to be respected as wild animals, and divers should avoid pushing them away or challenging them.

After a busy day of diving on Sunday, we headed out to Middle Mountain Mead after dinner for wine tasting. Mead is an ancient type of wine made with honey, and is produced on Hornby Island. We are looking forward to diving again with Hornby Island Diving and will be getting together another trip next year.

Divers Meet Steller Sea Lions at Hornby Island

  • Hornby Island DIvers
Hornby Island DIvers

Hornby Island Divers getting really to dive

Its been a fun and exciting 6 days with our March 2015 Hornby Island dive trip, where we spent two days of diving in Puget Sound before heading up to Hornby Island, British Columbia to dive in Canadian waters, and to see the Lions of Hornby Island. Our divers traveled from Florida, Hawaii, California and Washington state to join us on this underwater adventure.

Our trip started out near Seattle with two days of diving on Bandito Charters out of Tacoma WA. We visited some of our most popular south Puget Sound dive sites, including Z’s Reef, Point Defiance North Wall, and Maury Island Barges. Maury Island Barges was particularly beautiful as we had sunny skies (which meant lots of ambient light underwater), and 50+ foot visibility. We saw large populations of Copper and Brown rockfish, schools of various perch, and a favorite of mine, Painted greenling. On the invertebrate side we saw Plumose anemone, lots of sea stars and Giant barnacles.

Puget Sound king crab by Lauren Wilson

Puget Sound king crab by Lauren Wilson

After completing our two boat dive days, Friday was a travel day from Seattle north to Hornby Island, where we met up with more of our divers. The journey from Seattle to Hornby Island included a border crossing and a total of three ferries. The scenic drive north between Nanaimo and Port Hardy was especially beautiful with old growth forests and occasional views of the Salish Sea. While passing through Nanaimo, we had a chance to stop and try the famous Nanaimo bars.

After arriving at Hornby island Diving around early evening, we unpacked and had dinner. A few of our divers decided to try a night dive at Ford Reef, a shallow dive site accessible from shore next to the resort. The divers were amazed to find several large and brightly colored Puget Sound king crab out and about underwater in the early evening hours. After a good night’s sleep Friday, we were all up early Saturday ready to begin the first day of diving. The morning started out with sun and a few high clouds, and after breakfast we headed to our first dive site of the day, Flora Islet. The dive site was a wall dive with an easy line descent down to 60’, then divers followed the wall with a gentle current as they poked among the rocks for sea life. We found lots of Pile and Kelp perch, Copper and Quillback rockfish, Kelp greenling, and a very large Giant Pacific Octopus easily viewed in its den.

Yelloweye rockfish by Lauren Wilson

Yelloweye rockfish by Lauren Wilson

Once the dive was finished, we headed back to shore for air fills and a hearty lunch before traveling out to the second dive at Nash Bank. This boulder strewn dive site features hundreds of Lingcod, some guarding eggs, and a rare Yelloweye rockfish thought to be 100+ years old. Several of the divers happened upon this calm and friendly fish, who allowed us to take photos and video from a respectful distance before we moved on. After a second return trip to shore, a few of our divers headed back out for a third dive Repulse Point.

A storm came through Saturday night, bringing thunder and heavy rain to the island. We woke up Sunday morning to choppy seas and decided to delay our morning dive by 1 hour to allow for the weather to pass though. Once the seas had calmed down, our divers headed to Toby Islet for the morning dive. After a return to shore and lunch, we headed out for the main event, a dive at Norris Rocks with Steller sea lions. The sea lion colony is a temporary group of juvenile and adult Steller sea lions mixed with a few smaller adult California sea lions. As soon as we pulled up to the dive site, the juvenile Steller sea lions were in the water ready to meet us. Underwater, we settled in at about 30’ to watch the sea lions swim and carefully approach us. The sea lions are wild animals that are very curious, but can also be unpredictable. We took lots of still photos and video as the sea lions swam around us, checking out our dive gear and occasionally nipping at our fins and hoods with their mouths. It is quite exciting and unnerving to have a large wild animal put his mouth over your head and gingerly try to pull your scuba hood off. Our divers were able to spend up to an hour underwater with these amazing marine mammals.

Lions of Hornby Island

Video by Christine Simon

Sunday evening consisted of naps, massages by a local masseuse, and a fresh salmon dinner before venturing off resort to Middle Mountain Mead artisan honey winery for a private tasting. Mead wine is a honey based wine that has been fermented since ancient times and was popular with the Vikings. After learning more about this unusual drink, and picking up a few bottles to take home, we headed back down the mountain. Monday morning was out last dive, where many of our divers headed back to Norris Rocks for more diving with Steller sea lions before packing up to catch ferries and eventually flights back home.

The dive trip was a great success, with divers experiencing dive sites and marine life that can not be seen elsewhere. We’ll definitely be coming up to Hornby Island and other parts of British Columbia again for more diving, and hopefully we’ll get another chance to meet the Lions of Hornby Island.

Trip Update: Aliwal Shoal

  • Diver's Returning from Aliwal Shoal
Diver's Returning from Aliwal Shoal

Diver’s Returning from Aliwal Shoal

Yesterday we had the privilege of diving one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal. The dive site is located about two hours south of Durban in the small town of Umkomaas. Aliwal Shoal was named after an 1849 wreck and features both hard and soft corals, plus an abundance of reef fish and Grey nurse sharks, known by the local as “raggies” who migrate near the coast to breed every summer and spring.

To access the dive site, we loaded up all of our gear into a rigid-inflatable boat (RIB), and raced across the bar into open waters. Our first dive stop was a rocky area with lots of small caves and soft corals. After a back roll entry we descended to 40″ and swam over the reef, observing Grey nurse sharks, rays, Loggerhead turtles, Scorpion fish, and dozens of different types of reef fish.

During our surface interval, we saw female Humpback whales breaching as they headed up to Tanzania to give birth in it’s lagoons. On our second dive we found a big Round ray, Moray eel, groupers, and more turtles. Both dives had lots of surge which can be tiring but also part of the fun. One of the most exciting parts of the dive was the trip back to the beach. In order to get back to shore, the captain drove the boat at full speed towards the beach and flew it up onto the sand. A recovery crew was waiting for us and pulled the boat back onto it’s trailer for the ride back to Scuba Addicts lodge.

Next up is watching the Sardine run off Port St. John’s and the big animals that follow the annual migration- dolphins, tuna, sharks, and sea birds. While I’m traveling, our PADI- certified Divemasters will be conducting our daily scuba diving tours as usual back in Seattle.


Trip Update: Tala Game Reserve


Blesbok antelope

After 4 flights and 30 hours of travel, I finally made it to Durban, South Africa last Friday. Durban is a beautiful, laid-back city with a Mediterranean climate featuring warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights. After a rest day on Saturday, Christine and I decided to take a Durban city tour and the Tala Game Reserve tour with Country & Costal Touring.

Our first stop was Moses Mabhida Stadium and a trip up the SkyCar ride to the top for 360 views of the city. Next we headed into the foothills west of town to Tala Game Reserve to check out some wild life. Hippos, impala, giraffe, wart hog, gnu, and Blesbok were some of the species we saw.

In the evening, my partner Brian arrived on his flight from Seattle (via Dubai) and the three of us headed out to the trendy Florida Street area for a late supper.

Next up we are headed down to Umkomass and Awalal Shoal for two dives before finally arriving at Port St. John’s for the Sardine Run. The reserve had lost 3 rhinos last week to poaching, and the remaining 4 are scheduled to be relocated to a safer area.


Trip Update: Heading to the Sardine Run in South Africa

I’m currently down in Los Angeles, heading down to Durban for the sardine run off the eastern coast of South Africa. The sardine run in South Africa happens when billions of sardines school up for a spawning event, and then hundreds of thousands of predators converge to eat the fish. Predators include Dolphins, whales, sharks, and seabirds.

We will be spending a week or so cruising around in zodiac boats in scuba gear, hoping to find a feeding event. When we locate an event, we will dive into the water and observe what’s happening, and also hopefully get some good photos and GoPro video.

After the sardine run, we will head down to Cape Town to dive with Cape fur seals and also Great white sharks. While I’m traveling, our PADI- certified Divemasters will be conducting our daily Dive Tours as usual in Seattle.


Scuba Diving in Curaçao

Just a quick post- I’m currently scuba diving in Curaçao, part of the Netherlands Antilles, just off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean. While I’m away, we’ll still be running our daily dive tours and taking advantage of the great fall visibility and abundant marine life in the Pacific Northwest.

The scuba diving in Curaçao has been amazing with reefs filled with tropical fish and colorful corals. While I’m here, I plan on conducting a few REEF surveys on fish abundance at the local dive sites. Have a great week!