These are the two small islets just off Yarrow Point in Saanich Inlet. There are usually a pile of harbour seals on the rocks and the only thing that kept me from trying this place before was the swim. Of course it's really not that far. I must be spoiled. I finally went for it on Dec. 6, 2007. I used the same trail to the beach that I use for the "Yarrow Point" dive. Instead of swimming straight out, I walked out to the left along the shore for a bit and then swam across a small bay to Dyer Rocks off the point. This swim was around 200 meters long (see, not so bad.). The Cowichan River must have been dumping all the rain and snow that fell on Vancouver Island a few days ago into the North end of Saanich Inlet. Visibility on the surface was a muddy, brown 1 foot. I descended on the near (North) side of the islets and swam around them on the West side. At 10 feet deep, visibility slowly started to improve. There was a bed of eelgrass on the North side of the islets with quite a few nudibranchs (mostly alabaster). As I swam deeper, there was a slope of rocky reefs, boulders and rubble going down to around 60 feet deep on the South-West side. Visibility was around 20-30 feet. Unlike at the nearby "Yarrow Point" dive site, there were hardly any fish. There was a small group of perch, a few kelp greenlings and some terrified black-eye gobies that darted for cover when I swam close. I almost got excited when I saw a brown rockfish. Most of the marine life was a variety of seastars (easy to notice in the Inlet when there isn't much else). I spent some time poking around with my light around the boulders looking for wolf eels, but had no luck (it wasn't really deep enough for Saanich Inlet wolf eels). I did see a few octopus dens (like almost every dive in B.C.). As I swam around to the South-East side of the islets, the rocky slope turned into a more gentle slope of mostly sand. I went up to the shallows (20 feet) to see if any seals were around. I did see one do a quick swim-past at the limits of visibility before retreating to hide in the murk. There was also a strange character waddling along the bottom poking around between the rocks. It swam off back to the surface and I realised it was some kind of duck. I tried swimming back underwater along the shoreline, but I had to keep my hand out in front of me to stop my head from bumping into rocks so I gave up and swam back on the surface. On a day with good visibility this would be a decent dive. If the seals start rehearsing some broadway show tunes and overcome their stage-fright, I might even be back.
I tried again for the seals on Nov. 11, 2008. There had been a few days of rain and then one sunny day, which I hoped would be enough for all the fresh water to dissipate. Visibility seemed ok in the shallows (10-15 feet) so I swam out on the surface for half the distance then descended and followed my compass for the rest of the way so I wouldn't disturb the seals basking on the islets. Visibility was about 15 feet down to about 30 feet deep, where it started to improve. Below 50 feet, visibility was around 30 feet. I swam around the islets about 30 feet deep and could see a few seals circling around me at the limits of visibility. They refused to come any closer so I descended down to the rocky reefs where the visibility was better and there were things other than the seals. There were several copper, black, yellowtail and brown rockfish hiding between the pink coralline algae-covered boulders. I kept looking over my shoulder for seals, but they were too smart to go near a camera-carrying diver where there was decent visibility. I went back up to the 20-30 foot depths, where the seals showed up again. No matter where I looked, there was always one or two light-coloured shapes gliding by in the distance. I found a big sandy area that was free of bottom kelp and the seals seemed to be a bit less shy here. They would dig around in it and roll on their backs like dogs. I took a few pictures from about 10 feet away, which seemed to be the limit of their comfort zone. I wished I could have stayed here longer, but my air was low so I headed back to Yarrow Point. The seals continued to follow me at a distance. I felt a poking at my elbow and figured I'd finally get a decent seal shot, but when I spun around, there was a cormorant in my face. I couldn't get my camera up fast enough and it was gone back up to the surface in a cloud of bubbles. I don't know what it was doing so close and unafraid. Maybe it thought I was some kind of seal covered with parasites.