So Many Puffins And Whales In Newfoundland
We were excited when we had several opportunities for puffins and whales in Newfoundland. Our excursion with O’Briens Whale & Bird Tours and Gatherall’s Boat Tours provided a feast for the eyes. But we had whale sightings in other spots when we explored around St. John’s and then did a day trip to Trinity and Bonavista.
On our visit to Newfoundland, we never tired of finding new spots for sightings!
Booking An Excursion To See Puffins And Whales
We did whale watching in many places – California, British Columbia and the Azores in Portugal. On this road trip around Eastern Canada, our first whale watching trip from Tadoussac in Quebec got us beluga whales. That excursion was ok. But we knew we did not want to miss the whale watching season in Newfoundland.
When we looked at options for tours, we first decided to do an excursion on our day trip to Trinity and Bonavista. There were several options available. But the day trip to Bonavista from St. John’s was more than 8 hours with scenic stops. And that was without a whale watching tour in the middle of the day.
When we looked for alternatives, it was quickly evident that the Witless Bay area was another great option for tours. On our stay in St. John’s, the fog stayed around until about 3pm. So when we found a tour at 5pm, we quickly booked two spots. We hoped this also meant a less crowded boat tour for puffins and whales in Newfoundland.
Coastal Route To Bay Bulls Through Petty Harbour
We left St. John’s and headed off along the coastal route. We looked for small fishing villages that might show us iconic Newfoundland scenes. We stopped in Petty Harbour and saw the colourful houses that headed up the hills. There were colourful fishing boats in the harbour. And boat murals on the walls.
When we pulled into Bay Bulls, we first went down to the harbour. The Mishell mermaid statue welcomed us.
We booked our tour with Gatherall’s Boat Tours but we knew that the boat for the day was an O’Briens tour boat. When we stopped in the O’Briens shop in the harbour, they directed us up the hill to the Gatherall’s shop. In discussion with the boat captain Joe O’Brien we learned that Gatherall’s and O’Briens worked together for the last two years and marketed as O’Briens Whale & Bird Tours and as Gatherall’s Boat Tours. So book with either and get a great team effort!
We checked in and got our tickets for the short wait for the boat to depart. As we hoped, the boat was not crowded at all. Although it did not always appear that way when something was spotted off a certain part of the boat!
Rugged Newfoundland Shore
The boat pulled out and moved slowly up through Bay Bulls. As we moved along, we got a great glimpse at the rocky and rugged shoreline. It was not hard to see why Newfoundland was often called “The Rock”.
The rocks sheared at 45 degrees in layers. Caverns and deep crevices went back into the rocks. We knew that scuba diving along this shore would be amazing. If downright frigid!
It was great to see the rocky shores of Newfoundland from the water on our excursion for puffins and whales in Newfoundland.
Puffins And More On Gull Island
Gull Island was at the mouth of the bay between Bay Bull and Witless Bay. We slowly approached the shoreline and immediately heard the dull roar of birds. The bird poop made much of the island white.
The tour guide Noah talked to us about the birds on this island. High on the rocks we saw the puffins. As we looked down lower, we saw the common murres. They looked a bit like small penguins to us. And swooping around the shores were petrols that looked like grey gulls.
I must admit that without binoculars or a zoom lens, I really could not see the puffins. The zoom on my iPhone only got me so much detail! But David had his good zoom lens and was determined to fulfill my desire to see puffins. He shot non-stop and hoped that some of the hundreds of shots got me my puffin pics. And I was not disappointed.
We circled Gull Island. From that perspective, the birds seemed to swarm in the air. It was a little bit like the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. The first stop on our tour for puffins and whales in Newfoundland left us excited to see more.
The Whales Came To Us
After Gull Island, we headed offshore. On an earlier tour, Captain Joe found whales. So he headed back to that area. Soon we saw whale spouts in the distance and knew we were headed in the right direction.
When we were close the boat slowed to a crawl and moved towards the spouts and then the captain shut down the engine. Captain Joe moved up on the fly bridge as the whale spotter and proceeded to do a running commentary throughout. The water was flat and he easily spotted when the whales came close to the surface. We all scrambled in that direction.
We were not sure who was more curious – us or them. They lazily swam past one by one or in a group. Several bopped up and showed us their noses, spy hopping. We never saw whale features so close up – noses, nostrils, mouths and their barnacled surfaces. When it was time to dive, they flipped us a tail and went down.
In no time at all, we had one, then two and then four whales coming up to the boat.
We were amazed at how close the whales were to our boat. At times the spray from their spouts was so close, my sunglasses got wet.
A Great Time Out On The Water
Most of the time, we did not even have to move. The whales came right back up where the boat was. Captain Joe enticed us to call to the whales. A few times we moved a little when they drifted off. But the whales were content to give us a show until the sun started to sink.
Even Captain Joe seemed excited by how many whales we found on our trip. He even posed with April for a pic with the whales he chased for decades.
The boat finally headed back in. We saw whales spouting as we went but we did not chase any more. At the shop we posed for our final tour pic.
Extending Our Stay In Bay Bulls
When we left the tour shop, we wandered along the shore for more great views of the coastline.
We were happy to miss dinner for our amazing tour for whales and puffins in Newfoundland. But we did not pass on another Bull Bays treat. Saphire Scoops Ice Cream Shop provided a great selection of ice creams. The best ice cream sundaes we had in a long while – caramel for me and chocolate for David!
We found lots of treats when we chased puffins and whales in Newfoundland.
Other Puffin And Whale Sightings In Newfoundland
We were spoiled with our whale sightings on our tour. But that was not the only time we saw whales close to shore. Although even with a zoom lens we did not get the same kind of view. On our visit to the lighthouse at Cape Spear, we heard the whales first as they spouted water. And sure enough, when we looked out the were feeding just off the shore.
When we did a day trip to Trinity and Bonavista, we enjoyed the lighthouse and the stunning rocks. But we soon discovered that the rocks were the launching point for puffins to sail out over the sea. On our tour, we learned that puffins did not really fly well and needed to launch themselves. They beat their wings at 300 beats per minute to keep in the air. It was fun to watch them fly by.
But puffins weren’t the only thing we found at Bonavista. Off the shore, we first saw the whale watching boats we originally planned to join. And close to them we saw whale spouts. It looked like the whales were playing out at sea. We were sure the whale watching tour got a great show.
When we left Newfoundland, we took the ferry from Argentia. We stayed on deck when we were still within sight of land, We hoped to see whales and found none. But we think we saw a group of puffins on the sea and were not sure how they would ever get launched!
It was fun to look for puffins and whales in Newfoundland. While our great tour spoiled us, we were still excited when we knew there were puffins and whales nearby as we toured around the island.
Such Great Views Of Puffins And Whales In Newfoundland
We had a couple of things we did not want to miss on our visit to Newfoundland. Puffins and whales in Newfoundland was top of the list. So we were happy we got some great experiences on our trip to Eastern Canada.
Did you see puffins and whales in Newfoundland? Where was your best spot for viewings?
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