The sun on your face, the wind in your hair and ocean as far as the eye can see – it was the perfect summer day in Newfoundland. Zip up your survival suit and hop aboard – it’s time to get up close and personal with nature, courtesy of O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours.
It was a beautiful sunny day in the capital as I hopped aboard the shuttle to Bay Bulls, the home of family owned and operated O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours. Thrilling tourists and locals alike for over 30 years, I was heading out to experience their Coastal Adventure Tour – 90 glorious minutes aboard the Kingfisher, that boasts “a whale’s eye view of (the) ruggedly beautiful coastline.” Driving the rig was co-owner Loyola O’Brien and, as one TripAdvisor review states, ”what a treat [Loyola] was! He made the 30 min drive to Bay Bulls very entertaining and enjoyable. It really was a ‘guided driving tour’ as he pointed out interesting buildings and told us many interesting facts about Newfoundland. All of that with a huge smile on his face.”
Once we arrived in Bay Bulls, we met up with Captain Joe and were fitted for our survival suits. This wasn’t your standard boat tour – we were hopping aboard the Kingfisher, a small vessel with some serious zip (and room for an intimate group of 12). He eased us away from the wharf, pulling in to check out the first (of many) sea caves along the way. Once clear of the harbour, he opened her up and we were off! We skipped along the water, the fresh sea air reminding me exactly why I call this beautiful island home.
First things first, we set off to investigate a mother and calf humpback sighting in the area. As we zipped along, Captain Joe told us to keep our eyes trained on the water and, before I knew it, everyone was shouting and pointing excitedly at two distinct spouts just ahead. We pulled up a safe distance from them, shut off the engine and waited. The boat was completely silent as we gazed out to sea and, without warning, up comes a humpback, right next to the boat! While we were all searching for spouts in the distance, this cheeky calf snuck up on us to give us a show! It was so close I felt I could reach out and run my fingers along it’s slick, black skin – this was a different kind of whale watching – I felt completely immersed in the experience.
Check out Janelle’s whale watching video clip here.
We sat and watched as the mother and calf surfaced and dove, showing us their beautiful tails, until we had seen our fill – we were ready to explore the coast! Captain Joe brought us to see the Spout – a natural wave–powered geyser that sits along the East Coast Trail and then wound the Kingfisher in and out of multiple coves where we saw waterfalls, peered inside sea caves and craned our necks upwards to the tops of towering sea stacks. It looked like a National Geographic article come to life. The geology was simply breathtaking.
Peering into caves video here.
Back on land, we peeled off our suits and made a beeline to The Sailor’s Galley Restaurant. I’ve learned from experience that no trip to O’Brien’s is complete without their famous fish & chips. Windswept and happy I dug in, the sea salt on my lips intermingling with the freshly battered cod and the taste of a pint brewed from 10,000 year old iceberg water – summer in Newfoundland was off to an unbelievable start.
Check out Janelle’s full article with videos here