Season 2


Snake Island, Nanaimo, British Columbia

by Susie Lee

Snorkeling is a real adventure in itself but snorkeling along side some harbour seals take this activity to a new level. I’m not talking about snorkeling in the exotic environment of Australia or in the warm waters of the Baja. I’m talking about diving in our own backyard along the waters of Snake Island just off of Nanaimo in British Columbia.

Interestingly, Vancouver Island is rated one of the "best" cold-water destinations in the world. Might it be because of the marine wildlife diversity? Or the experience of snorkeling face to face with harbour seals in places like Snake Island? Nanaimo has easily become the international hot spot for diving enthusiasts . Well, I had to get a first hand experience to see what the craze was all about! I visited Sundown Diving where owner Ed Singer would take me on this wonderful adventure.

I was sitting on the edge of the boat, all suited up in my Neoprene wet suit, hood, booties, mask, gloves and flippers. And in the distance I could see the seals sunbathing on a rock while the pups were frolicking in the shallow waters. I took a backward leap into the water and submerged my head under the jade colored water. As I floated I entered a magical underwater environment thriving with beautiful, colourful marine life like the bunches of starfishes on the wall of the rocks, the delicate sea anemones that inhabited the marine floor, and crabs and jelly fish that were swimming in the water.

As I approached the seals, I was mindful that I was in their space and had to respect them in their natural environment by not disturbing them on the rocks or getting too close. Being underwater seemed to magnify everything around me. The waves kept rocking me back and forth so it was difficult to hold my position without creating a splash of disturbance around me. I learned to go with the flow and float on my stomach and allow the curious young pups to approach me. The seals were so agile and fast in the water that I couldn’t spin around fast enough to get a glimpse of them. Usually I am dexterous in the water but compared to the seals, I was clumsy and slow and couldn’t seem to get my underwater bearings. So I finally stopped looking for them and let them swim in circles around me and enjoy this natural phenomenon. I imagine these local seals are so interactive with me because they have been accustomed to divers in the area.


The great thing about snorkeling is that you don’t have to take a lesson or even necessarily have to be a strong swimmer. And if you’re hesitant about taking the plunge into BC’s cold waters, not to worry, the one-piece wet suit does a fantastic job of keeping you warm and buoyant. This is an adventure that anybody of any age can enjoy without venturing too far from home.

And you won’t be disappointed as there is no shortage of seals on Snake Island. The lack of predators and the abundance of food make this a perfect location for the seals. Sounds like paradise to me…I think I’ll move in too! They say that some days, there are as many as 200 seals sunbathing or swimming in the shallow waters of the bay. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself!


  • Harbour seals can stay underwater for up to 28 minutes.
  • They swim up to 19 km/per hour.
  • They have excellent eye sight underwater but not so on land.
  • Harbour seals do not drink water rather they extract the moisture from their food.
  • They have multiple layers of blubber that provide insulation, energy reserve and buoyancy.
  • They use their whiskers to detect vibrations in the water.


  • Bring an underwater camera for that Kodak moments.
  • Bring a bathing suit and towel.
  • The snorkeling adventure takes about 4 hours
  • Always take precautionary measures and use common sense, they are still wild animals.
  • What a great gift experience to give to a loved one!



Sundown Diving

22 Esplanade Rd,
Nanaimo, BC, V9R 4Y7
Tel. 250.753.1880

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Episode 6 Guide: Nanaimo

Click on any image below to visit and watch the video segment
The Harbour City
Wildplay Element Parks
Snorkelling with Seals
Country Market / Cathedral Grove
Free Spirit Spheres
Home Lake Caves

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