Shipwrecks invoke a sense of nostalgia. After my wreck dives in Tobermory, Canada, I stood on the deck of the dive boat and watched the rocky, pine-covered shoreline fly past. The captains of the sunken vessels I had just visited had navigated the same landscape over a century ago without GPS, radios, and weather monitoring stations. The harbor at Tobermory provided shelter for these ships during heavy storms.
Tobermory was once a small logging and fishing village. These days, Tobermory has become a tourist destination and is part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Don’t let the “tourist” designation fool you. Scuba diving off of Tobermory requires a sense of adventure. While there are dives for both novice and experienced divers, the conditions are cold and sometimes difficult. However, divers who are willing to follow in the footsteps of the old-time frontiersman and brave Lake Huron’s “cool” waters will find over twenty-one well-preserved shipwrecks waiting for them in the clear water.
Here’s 5 reasons to dive Tobermory.
1. Shipwrecks Near Tobermory:
Shipwrecks lay scattered about Fathom Five National Marine Park for reasons that read like the plot line from a pirate movie. Stories include ships running aground on shallow, treacherous rocks, sinking during violent storms, or catching fire at the harbor so that they had to be cut free to prevent the entire dock from burning down. These wrecks now rest at depths ranging from 150 feet to 15 feet, and are accessible to both divers and snorkelers. Even though many of the wrecks, such as the Arabia, are wooden and over a century old, most are in good condition due to the cool, fresh water.
2. Clear Water:
Seasoned wreck divers have learned to accept horrible visibility as part of the game. I have definitely felt my way along my share of shipwrecks. While this does make tough wreck divers feel good about their advanced skills, wreck diving doesn’t have to be so difficult. In Tobermory, my dives were relaxing, and I could see the entire wreck. The visibility on my dives was upwards of 100 feet, and I was told that in springtime, the visibility is regularly over 200 feet. The water itself has an unusual ice-blue color, lending a serene, almost dream-like quality to the dives.
3. Challenging Yourself:
As a cave diver, I tend to get up to some pretty advanced diving. One might think that the diving the wrecks at Tobermory would be easy for me. However, I do not generally dive in cold water, with gloves, or with such thick wetsuits, so the dives were challenging. One of the aspects of diving that I love the most is that there is always a new environment or dive site that will take you out of your comfort zone. Learning to address new challenges makes you a better diver – and it’s exciting! I would especially recommend this sort of dive trip for those whose normal dive vacation consists of warm tropical reefs. Try something new, you might just like it.
I have dived in many locations around the world, and have discovered a pattern – the more unusual the dive site, the nicer the people. You might think that a cold water wreck diving destination would attract mainly advanced divers with a bit of a superior attitude. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While the boat was filled with a wide range of divers, from novices to technical divers, everyone was friendly and helpful. The advanced divers helped the newer divers, and there was friendly, animated conversation on deck. “Are you crazy enough to want to go cold water wreck diving? Me too!”
5. Diver’s Den Dive Shop:
I visited several dive shops in Tobermory before deciding to dive with the Diver’s Den. Diver’s Den was the friendliest, and had the best selection of dive gear for sale. The owner made time to chat with all the divers, and every single employee I spoke with was polite, positive, knowledgeable, and helpful. The rental equipment was excellent, and they even had semi-dry 7 mm wetsuits, gloves, and hoods for tiny people like me. The dive shop does everything from filling diver’s tanks and directing them to shore diving, to arranging all diving logistics including gear, boat travel and guides.
This is a dive shop for divers. Don’t expect your gear to be set up for you or someone to hold you hand during the dives (unless you hire a private guide). However, if you are a relatively independent diver and can take care of yourself, you will find that the staff gives you just the right amount of freedom, while still being helpful.
Visit Tobermory to see over 20 historic shipwrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park.