Welcome to this exclusive interview with Fabrice Vanhoutte, a scuba diving enthusiast and experienced instructor based in Quebec. With 43 years of diving experience and 35 years of teaching, Fabrice is an emblematic figure of the diving scene in Quebec. He shares with us his journey, his passion and his unique knowledge of the underwater marvels that Quebec has to offer and in particular his latest flagship destination: Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
Can you quickly introduce yourself and tell us about your experience as a diving instructor in Quebec?
Hello everyone, I'm Fabrice Vanhoutte, and diving has been my passion for more than four decades. I spent 43 years underwater and 35 years teaching scuba diving. Since 2005, I practice scuba diving in Quebec. I acquired certifications and training in diving intervention, allowing me to be completely autonomous in my explorations. I recently arrived in the Islands and proud to have been invited by the local population to participate in clam fishing, this specialty arousing a growing demand for diving. In addition, the environmental aspect is very important to me, especially the preponderant role of lobster in this ecosystem. The islands of Quebec are home to nearly 500 wrecks, offering an exceptional area of discovery.
Can you share your favorite phrase related to diving?
Absolutely. A phrase that I constantly share with my diving students is: “If you feel stressed, the first thing to do is to stop, sit down and ask yourself: How do I breathe?” I want to educate divers to adopt a zen and calm approach to diving. Scuba diving is not a competition. When diving, the basic rule is to always follow the whole group and stay focused on your breathing.
How did you become passionate about diving in Quebec?
My love for diving started in my youth in Dunkirk, France. I grew up near many WWII wrecks which fueled my passion for underwater exploration. I started diving at the age of 12 and quickly acquired skills in scuba diving. My ancestors were sailors, which also influenced my connection with water. When I arrived in Quebec, I discovered an equally fascinating marine environment, with varied and demanding diving conditions.
What are the particularities of diving in Quebec?
Quebec offers a unique diving experience for several reasons. First of all, the training of divers in Quebec is complete and serious due to the demanding conditions, which makes them very qualified and respected divers around the world. In addition, we have privileged access to exceptional dive sites, such as the Flinkote and Morrison quarries, as well as magnificent coastal marine environments along the North Shore and Gaspésie. Divers can discover an impressive variety of marine life, from historic wrecks to biodiverse seagrass beds, lobsters and seals.
What are the best times of the year to dive in Quebec?
Quebec offers diving opportunities all year round. Although the tourist season is short, divers can explore Quebec's waters in a variety of conditions. The summer months offer pleasant temperatures and exceptional visibility. However, even outside the summer season, divers can enjoy clear water and relatively mild waters, choosing calm days for successful expeditions.
What are your favorite dive sites in Quebec and why?
The Magdalen Islands offer an exceptional diving experience. The clear waters and unique rock formations create diverse habitats for a multitude of marine species. The dives along the rocky capes from the shore are particularly rich in biodiversity, with seagrass beds, algae, shrimps and of course, the emblematic lobsters. Divers can also explore historic wrecks, some of which harbor an impressive concentration of underwater life.
What makes the Magdalen Islands destination special for divers?
There are two ways to watch diving at the islands. There is one for the discovery of wrecks, there are hundreds of them and the most beautiful will have to be listed and protected.
On the other hand, those who are interested in the marine biology side, underwater fauna and flora, I advise them very strongly to limit their diving from the edge, from the shore, because that is where they go have the most light and thus have the best chance of seeing aquatic life… Much more than if they go deep.
How do you ensure the safety of divers during your expeditions?
Diver safety is my top priority. I put in place rigorous protocols, reliable safety equipment and I make sure that each diver is well prepared before each expedition. I train beginner divers taking into account the specific conditions of Quebec, including water temperature and current. I guide them throughout the experience, providing them with tips for managing stress and fully enjoying each dive.
How do you promote Quebec dive sites to potential divers?
I am a member of the Magdalen Islands Tourist Association and have actively participated in promoting diving in the region. My involvement goes beyond tourism, as I also contribute to the preservation of local underwater heritage. My presence in the field reflects my commitment to the Magdalen Islands as an exceptional diving destination.
What are the positive experiences of divers who have explored your sites?
Divers who have explored our sites have been impressed by the clarity of the waters and the diversity of marine life. Lobsters, in particular, always arouse wonder. Many divers have highlighted the unique combination of land and underwater beauty that the Magdalen Islands offer. The diving experience here is an adventure for the heart and soul, marked by serene and unforgettable moments.
What would you say to encourage divers from all over the world to discover diving in Quebec?
To use a local expression, I would say that Quebec offers the possibility of discovering the beauty of the sea depths at your own pace. Here you will find a balance between terrestrial tranquility and underwater fascination. The Îles de la Madeleine offer stunning scenery and diverse marine life, creating a unique and memorable diving experience. Come explore our clear waters and discover the magic of diving in Quebec. It is an adventure that will remain etched in your memories forever.
Thanks a lot to Fabrice Vanhoutte for sharing his knowledge, passion and dedication to diving in Quebec. We hope this valuable contribution enriches the diving community and inspires new underwater explorations!