Saturday, 22 December 2012

Postcards from Home: Whale Watching

Whale Watching 5I saw a couple of small whales on my Spout Path walk. It brought me back to when I was growing up, watching the whales as they would come in close to shore to feed during the capelin scull. Anne grew up on the Prairies, with nary a whale to be seen. So I figured it would be good to take her and Zoey on one of the touristy "whale watching" boat tours. I hit the Tourism Newfoundland's website of recommended service providers and picked O'Brien's out in Bay Bulls.

Since I was already in Bay Bulls, where I stayed after my Spout Path hike, O'Brien's was nice and close. I booked an early morning tour, thinking to beat the crowd coming out from St. John's. When I woke up and looked out the window, I was happy to see a nice bright sky. The blue bottles in the photo are a couple of Quidi Vidi Brewery's Iceberg beers that I used to rehydrate myself after my hike.

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O'Brien's operates out of Bay Bulls where they have a great facility on-shore for people waiting for their tour departure. Kids can play around and their parents can browse in the gift shop.

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Our boat was the Atlantic Puffin, the sister ship of the Atlantic Whaler.

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When Anne was little, we used to hike in the Rockies. She was always the first to see any animal or interesting sight. It looks like Zoey takes after her mother because just out of the harbour, she spotted something and wanted her mom to "wook".

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In this case she spotted a traditional Newfoundland fishing boat. We were too far away to tell for sure, but it looked like these guys were jigging for fish. In Newfoundland "fish" is cod, whereas all other "fish" go by their actual names.

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Besides whale watching, the O'Brien's tour also takes you to see the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. The reserve is made up of four islands: Gull Island, Green Island, Great Island, and Pee Pee Island. Our destination was the largest of the four: Gull Island. We were still a couple of kilometers away from Gull Island when we ran into flocks of birds, many flying just above the water's surface.

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The Reserve is home to North America's largest colony of Atlantic Puffins, with some 500,000 of them nesting there during the summer. The puffins share Gull Island with other species of birds, notably kittiwakes and murres. There was a research group on the island and their tent gave me a way to show the scale of the bird colony.

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We were able to get in close to the island and Zoey watched the bird activity with fascination.

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After coming around the southern end of Gull Island, we made haste north to see if we could spot some whales just off the shore from the Spout Path.

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As we were heading north, we met another tour company heading back in. I can see the attraction of the little speed boats, notably that they are fast, but given the changeable nature of Newfoundland weather, I think we made the right choice in picking a larger boat with a cabin.

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The whales were getting ready to head south, so we were not sure if we would spot any. But before too long, we did manage to see a couple of small whales feeding very close to shore, just off of the Spout. Their pattern was pretty regular:

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Wave Good-Bye.
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Leave Footprint.
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After spending about an hour watching these guys, it was back to Bay Bulls and around the same light that marked the end of my Spout Path hike.

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I would recommend the whale watching / bird watching tour not only to tourists visiting the Island, but also to locals. It is well worth the money and the time.

Many of my images from Newfoundland are available to purchase as fine art prints from my web gallery.

If you would like to read some of my other posts about Newfoundland, click here and use the "Older" and "Newer" links at the bottom to scroll through the posts.

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