SUMMARY: A boat dive in Saanich Inlet with more than just cloud sponges. LOCATION: On the south- west shore of Saanich Inlet,. A buoy marks the dive. Swim down the slope until you hit a wall. WHAT TO SEE: There is a wall that drops straight down from about 70-80 feet. I don't know how deep it goes. There is a piece of reef jutting out from one end of the wall at about 100 feet with lots of medium -sized cloud sponges on it. Quillback rockfish and lingcod live in and around them. There may be more sponges further down the wall. When I looked over the cliff I saw at least one down there. There are crabs, starfish, swimming anemones, nudibranchs and solitary tunicates here and there. There is a rock face covered with zoanthids at 70 feet. A lingcod was lying on them and guarding an egg mass when I swam by. CONDITIONS: The main group of cloud sponges are about 100 -120 feet deep. The buoy is anchored in about 40-50 feet of water. Current is not a problem. Avoid this dive in late spring or early summer when plankton can ruin the visibility in Saanich Inlet. When I was here one day in early march, I looked up from 120 feet deep and could see the boat on the surface. Probably the best visibility I've ever seen. 30-100 foot visibility is more typical.
I came back on New Year's Day, 2007 with Richard and Al on Richard's boat. It was pouring rain so visibility was down to about 40 feet (still not too bad). We went to the sponges as usual and on the way back up, a huge Steller's sea lion charged in, spun around us and sped off. I wasn't fast enough for a decent picture. It was dark down deep so even with the fast film (ASA 800) and camera settings of 1/30 sec. and f5.6, most of the pictures didn't turn out. I should have moved in closer to let the strobe do most of the work.
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