A Whale (& Puffin & Iceberg) Tale with O’Brien’s Boat Tour, part 1

When you think of Newfoundland, what comes to mind?
Warm Hospitality, Traditional Culture, Wildlife, Icebergs?
O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Award Winning Boat Tours gives you all this and more.

My adventure with O’Brien’s started with friendliness and warmth which did not let up: from the moment I was picked up by shuttle driver, owner Loyola O’Brien, until the afternoon ended, I was taken care of, entertained and smiling. It is a family operation and you are welcomed as into a family home.

I had pre-arranged for the shuttle to pick me up — as a nice bonus, this also meant that I had a downtown St. John’s tour and a chance to meet my fellow tourists as they were picked up from their hotels.
1-Loyola 3-Boat

We arrived in perfect time wharf-side at Bay Bulls and embarked within a few minutes. We had the option to sit/stand inside the cabin or up on deck (or move between as I did) — there are great sight lines both inside and out. We met tour guide, Justin, whose sense of fun was infectious and his knowledge extensive (later on he also proved to have other talents).

5-JustinandIce 4-Captain

Much chattering on the shuttle had been about the rumoured iceberg and it was quickly confirmed! As we set off, we were shown an iceberg (and two smaller “calves”) in the Bay close to shore. An iceberg is a stunning thing to see in person: from every angle the shape and colour shift before your eyes and you sense the enormity of it (90% more is under the water). Captain Joseph gave us 360 degrees of photo opportunities, nothing was missed.

Our provincial bird, the Atlantic Puffin (after which our boat was named), is a character to behold: small, rotund, colourful and tough. For takeoff, it runs along the water surface in a quick blur and to stay aloft, its wings flap rapidly — it appears to defy all laws of physics and can sure entertain a crowd, especially in the numbers we see them. Hundreds flew above us, ran and dove next to us as we approached and circled Gull Island (one of four islands comprising the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve) where thousands more went about their day on the cliffs they return to as mated pairs annually. It’s a city of birds — not just puffins, but their cousins the murres, storm-petrels and kittiwakes too — and, on this day, a juvenile eagle who spooked the other birds and soared across the bow delighting everyone on board!

While alongside Gull Island, we were alerted to signs of whale activity, unexpected at that time of year so we detoured away from the bird colony to look for a whale. We found our humpback, moving at an easy pace (for a whale) and learned from Justin how to spot a whale from above. It surfaced, spouted and flicked its tale — the crowd delighted once again.

Read Part 2, as my day with O’Brien’s continues back on shore…

Book your own awesome adventure with O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tour
On the website: obriensboattours.com
By Phone: 1.709.753.4850 or 1.877.639.4253

O’Brien’s is also very sociable
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