Quadra Island is a well known and popular dive site in British Columbia; with astounding life ranging from seals and killer whales to tiny well hidden invertebrates and colourful fish that wouldn’t look out of place residing on a reef somewhere substantially warmer!
Copper Bluffs gets its name from the copper ore that literally turns parts of the cliff face blue/green with verdigris from exposure to the elements. The dive itself is a boat dive, typically with live boating for pick up and safety. Why? Because Copper Bluffs is a wall/drift dive with two speeds, low and Go!, and depending on how far you make it along the gently stepped wall, you can experience both speeds. After entering the water, it’s a very short swim over to the cliffs, and depending on where you are along the cliff and by tides, it’s a 10m-15m descent to reach the gentle slope or stepped bottom. I maxed out at 21m here, but you can go much deeper. Visibility was good each time we hit the water, with an average of 4m-6m of absolute clarity before the distinctive emerald green water gradually began to swallow up more distant objects. Water temperature is 6˚C on average, and much like the rest of the BC coast, October to April is the best time to dive.
Now, the drift speed is key here, because it changes very quickly and can catch you off guard. The majority of the dive is a low to moderate speed affair, where stopping for pictures and fighting the current are options available to you. When you come up on “the corner”, an outcrop on the wall you can miss if you’re sticking to the bottom, just poking around it a bit to see what’s going on is enough. You’re now hurtling along doing the “superman”, the bottom steps are gone and only an urchin covered wall remains. Your safety stop will either be on the move, or you can find a handhold and hang on! I opted for the latter, clinging to the wall and trying to snap a pic of an abalone while I did my five minutes.
Life wise, the area is rife with it. Marine mammals, fish, invertebrates, they’re all there, and the photo opportunities are great! One one dive we spotted several colour variations of the Pacific Blood Star, a very sinister looking Lingcod, the largest Puget Sound King Crab I’ve ever seen (also deeper than the plan allowed), and numerous tiny Scalyhead Sculpin. While only a fraction of the life you’ll see in the area, it was still fantastic. Bring a dive light though, because it can get dark there (especially if you’re in the water on an overcast day) and it makes finding things to look at much easier.
Overall, Copper Bluffs is a good intermediate level dive, with a bit of something for just about everyone. So, if you’re in the area of Campbell River and Quadra Island and looking for a great way to pass the time; contact the local dive shops or tours and check out Copper Bluffs!