Whale Watching – An Amazing Experience on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia

Humpback Whale

Photo by Sylke Rohrlach

Whales start to arrive off the coast of Nova Scotia every spring and stay until late fall. Digby Neck, Long Island and Brier Island on the Bay of Fundy, are very popular areas to enjoy a whale watching tour.

At the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, the rich feeding grounds attract several types of whales in the summer. They come here to mate, feed on plankton and play. Humpbacks are the most popular and the most exciting whales to watch.

They are known for breaching the ocean’s surface, lunging out of the waves, and re-entering the water with a loud smack and plume of water. I think they like to show off. Finbacks, Minke, and the rare Atlantic Right Whale have been spotted here as well.

Humpback Whale

Photo by Antarctica Bound

Humpback whales are very playful and will surface and swim beside your boat. Sometimes you can watch them as they go underneath – it’s scary and thrilling at the same time. It’s hard to imagine that we can be so close to these huge creatures and it is very humbling.

My husband and I were invited to go on a whale watching adventure with friends. We accepted and went on a tour from Brier Island to a location about seven miles offshore. You can book a tour on a small zodiac, or a larger, more comfortable Cape Island style boat.

The smaller zodiacs allow you to be closer to the water – it’s way more thrilling to be so intimate with these gigantic creatures in such a small boat. We chose a zodiac – it was awesome!

We went in early August on a very foggy day. We were hoping for a clear day, but were not discouraged – we wanted an adventure, so off we went. The fog actually made the trip more exciting…

First, we all had to don survival suits in case anyone fell overboard, God forbid! There were 12 people in the zodiac and we all took our seats and enjoyed the ride out to the area where the whales were known to be hanging out.

Survival Suits

The ride out was fast and because of the spray, we got a bit wet – I love being on the open water. Along the way, you may also see porpoises, seals and many sea birds in their natural habitat.

In our speedy zodiac, we arrived at the whale-watching site before any of the other boats. We were alone – we thought – in the thick fog, visibility reduced to a minimum. The skipper shut off the engines and told us to be quiet and just listen. It was really eerie at first – it was so calm and quiet – and we soon discovered that we were not alone.

Suddenly, we heard a noise close by. A humpback, that we couldn’t see in the fog, breached and then blew, shattering the silence. We could hear it swimming and breathing, gathering air for its next dive. It was a fantastic and unforgettable experience.

We waited in the fog, and eventually, huge Humpbacks appeared out of the mist. They came closer, swimming alongside our zodiac – they were close enough that we could see their eyes as they watched us. Our boat seemed to shrink as these gigantic mammals swam underneath. It was totally amazing to watch and so awe inspiring. It was an incredible day and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

It’s a scenic drive to get out to the islands, including two short ferry rides. We also enjoyed walking around Brier Island for a bit and then set up our tents at a campsite on Digby Neck where we stayed for two nights. A trip I totally recommend for the whole family.

Brier Island

There are many tour companies from which to choose. Here are just a few links:

Mariner Cruises Whale and Seabird Tours
325 Water St., Westport, NS

Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises
223 Water St., Westport, NS

Ocean Explorations NS
217 Tiverton, NS

Whale Fluke

Photo by John Harwood

While vacationing in Nova Scotia – and for residents too – a whale watching tour in the Bay of Fundy should be on the top of your list of things to do. Besides whale watching, the Bay of Fundy is also famous for having the highest tides in the world. I’ll cover this in a later post…

Happy whale-watching!

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