Of Whales and Puffins

July 29, 2013
Posted on December 16, 2013

This morning we woke up close to the breakfast ending time and found the main table in the dining room had no more space left. We opted to have breakfast in the lounge instead, where we had tea the night before. This was a blessing in disguise as the guests at the main table were in the middle of a heated discussion about Toronto politics (especially our colourful major, who since then became even more infamous). This was not something we wanted to engage in, so we headed out quickly after the meal for our Zodiac boat tour in Witless Bay.

Before we left, we noticed something stuck in the SV650’s rear tire:

It still held air fine and we decided to proceed with caution today, but tomorrow this will be the first bike to get the tire change 😉

Witless Bay is a 30 min ride away from downtown St. John’s. The route we took along Topsail Road and Highway 10 was close to the coast and very scenic. It was short compared to most other rides on this trip, so before we knew it, we were donning the bright orange insulated suits that would keep us warm and dry on the open boat.

As we left the small inner bay we started seeing puffins and many other sea birds very close to the boat, and within a couple of minutes we were seeing the first whale for today – a minke. Over the course of the hour and a half tour we got close and personal with about half a dozen humpback whales; some of them teased us by passing right under the boat. A few more were seen further away, often identified by the splashes coming from their blowholes.

On the approach to the bird sanctuary island, we saw lots of puffins up close. This time we had plenty of opportunities to watch how these birds behave in the water, something not easily done in Elliston.

Puffins in Witless Bay Bird Sanctuary

Sea gull chicks

Common Murres and Atlantic Puffins

There is a small tent on the island, apparently for use by the researchers that study the numerous birds at the sanctuary, but no other human-made structures. In the vicinity of the island whales and seabirds roam very close to each other, sharing the abundant resources of the ocean. It’s always cool to watch the whales surface, but nothing beats the view of their majestic tails as they dive in.

Humpback whale tail

The whale and the bird sanctuary

Tiny research tent – the only artificial structure on the island

Puffins warming up in the sun

Take off!

Common Murres

I got a little seasick on the boat and decided to wait a bit before riding off. We had a bite in a nearby cafe and then went back to St. John’s. We had another boat tour scheduled and with the extended lunch break we took, we made it with little time to spare. Since it was departing from St. John’s harbour, we left the bikes at the B&B and headed there by foot, noting some of Newfoundland’s furrier residents.

Our resident cat. Since the streets are so slanted, the ground where we parked was way above the first floor kitchen and patio, hence the shot’s downward perspective.

Another street, another cat.

I was hesitant to do the second boat trip because I was afraid to get seasick again, but as it was a much larger boat, I thought to give it a try. It’s funny because I’ve been on quite a few boats before, including another Zodiac, and was feeling just fine, but somehow that day was different. In retrospect, I made a wrong guess. Not only did I promptly get nauseous again, the trip itself was a waste of time. The boat did not depart for another half an hour as they waited to see if more people would come and buy tickets. What followed was a very basic tour of the static landmarks such as the harbour and Cape Spear. It would have been fine if that’s what we were looking for, but the tour company based their entire marketing around icebergs, whales and puffins, so we were hoping to see more of that, instead of just the landmarks that are always in season and always easy to find. I can understand lack of icebergs, it was indeed not the time for that, but it was mind boggling that we saw no whales at all considering the luck we had with them earlier in the day. I think they did not even try. On the bright side, we did not crash into an iceberg and arrived safely back to dry land, so there is that.

St. John’s waterfront.

Looking towards the Narrows from the inner harbour.

One of the numerous large ships docked in St. John’s. Also note the steep incline of the street as you get further from the shore.

The Battery.

The Battery up close. On the right is the spot from which we took many night photos the previous evening.

Lighthouse at the entrance into St. John’s harbour.

Cape Spear and its two lighthouses.

Fishermen like to show off their catch!

We usually try to explore different places to eat when travelling, but after a disappointing boat tour, I wanted some certainty. We went back to the Rocket, and had some of their yummy stuff and some extraordinary profiteroles.

With our spirits lifted, we walked around the city streets absorbing its atmosphere and enjoying a relaxing evening.

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