This is one of B.C.'s "famous" dives. It's one of those places that everyone seems to have heard of. As usual, I wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I drove up (early March, 2005) to Nanaimo and took the 20-minute ferry to Gabriola Island. Orlebar Pt. is on the extreme Northern tip of the island near the end of Berry Point Road (some maps call it Berry Point). This is supposed to be a current-sensitive dive so I arrived just before slack. There are a few small parking areas above the gently-sloping sandstone beach. The good part of this dive is supposed to be the wall that goes down to 150 feet-plus on the chart (popular with technical divers). This wall is between Orlebar Pt. and Entrance Island. Just after I arrived, two local divers showed up and offered to let me tag along. Their dive plan didn't include the wall, but they generously decided to change the plan and guide me to it. We entered on the left side of the point and swam out on the surface towards Entrance Island for about 100 - 200 feet. A Californian sea lion swam by and I could hear them "barking" at their Entrance Island haulout. We descended and swam across a flat sandy/sandstone bottom for what seemed like forever. Visibility was about 15 feet in these shallows. We gradually went deeper and saw some huge sea pens, but not much else until we reached some small, flat sandstone reefs and then suddenly the wall dropped in front of us. There were large boot sponges, feather stars, crimson and plumose anemones, etc. on the wall. It wasn't as colourful and packed with invertebrates as Ten Mile Point, but there was still a larger than average amount of life and the wall was huge. The swarms of crimson anemones were something we don't often see in Victoria (unless you go out to the Race Rocks area) Visibility was about 40-50 feet at this depth (I spent most of my time on the wall at 80-110 feet deep). There were small clumps of pink branching hydrocoral, and rockfish (copper, quillback, tiger, and juvenile yelloweye) and lingcod were everywhere. I didn't see any larger sculpins (cabezon Irish lords, etc.) though. I saw a section of wall about 20 feet by 20 feet covered with zoanthids. There's never enough air or film for a dive like this, so I ascended back up to the top of the wall at about 50-60 feet and started the long swim back to shore. I felt a bit of current in this area (I didn't feel any on the wall) and realised how much longer this swim would be if the current was going full-blast. If you had to surface in the channel, you would probably have a hard time getting back to shore. I made it back fine after a million-mile swim. This is definitely a place I'll come back to.
I came back on Sept. 25, 2007. Visibility was around 10-20 feet in the shallows and 40 feet or so deeper on the wall. There weren't many sandy ledges on the wall for me to set down the camera and take my usual self-portraits, but I managed a few. I made up for it in the shallows while I was waiting for my computer to clear.