Bob took his motion sickness meds last night in preparation for our whale watching tour in Cheticamp today. There were quite a few companies to choose from in Cheticamp and more 30 minutes further north in Pleasant Bay. I did some online research about each one and we decided to go with Captain Zodiac in Cheticamp.
The prices were about the same everywhere, so it really came down to proximity to the campground and an educated guess about which one would give us the best experience. I really wanted to do a whale watching cruise in a Zodiac–a 28′ rigid hull with inflatable pontoons.
We’ve done the other types of boats with as many as 350 people on board (Maine), so I thought a smaller boat that holds only 12 might be able to get more up-close and personal. Was I right! More about that later. We dressed in warm clothes and brought our raincoats as windbreakers like we were told. It was a beautiful day as predicted (we checked the weather ahead to be sure)–sunny skies, high of 75 degrees, and light winds. We left camp at 9 AM for a 75 minute ride to Cheticamp along the Cabot Trail.
It was a very scenic ride through the valley and along the shoreline.
There were amazing views of the rugged coastline.
The road wound around the shoreline through many small, barely there, towns like Middle River.
We arrived in Cheticamp at 10:15 for our 11 AM tour, found the Captain Zodiac office, and checked in.
We had about 30 minutes to spare, so we took a drive through town and out the other side.
We got a view of the grand Phare Lighthouse that sits on the rocky point above the city.
Some waves were breaking along the rocks from a distant boat that went by.
We returned to the office at 10:50 as instructed, to get fitted with life jackets. On today’s tour there would only be 8 of us….another couple and a family of four. We got our safety instructions and best viewing procedures from the captain. Our captain would be the owner….a lifelong resident of Cheticamp. Jackpot! After getting everyone on board, we were ready to roll.
It was a short ride from the dock, past the lighthouse to the open ocean.
Once we got out a ways, the captain stopped to get information about the whereabouts of the whales, via the radio, from another whale watching tour boat that was just coming back.
The captains share information with each other about where to find the whales. It’s a big ocean out there and the whales are always moving with the food. The captain was told that a pod of 30-40 pilot whales were spotted about 5 miles out from where we were, so we headed off in that direction. Along the way, we ran into a group of 40-50 gray seals that were feeding. We stopped and watched them pop their heads out of the water and look at us. They were so funny to watch all around us, but we couldn’t stay long. The whales were on the move and so were we! After awhile, the captain spotted them up ahead. We slowed down and moved closer. They were feeding on squid, mackerel, and herring. Pretty soon they were all around us. We didn’t know which way to look.
According to the captain, pilot whales are the most fun to watch because they are the most active and you can get close to them. That was SO true! (I did not have to use my zoom on this picture.)
Many times they surfaced right next to the boat, only 2 or 3 feet away, or they swam right towards us and then under the boat. This one is headed right for us.
The water was so clear that we could see them swim right below us and it was 300 feet deep!
Pilot whales got their name because scientists think that one whale in the pod is the leader…or pilot…that leads them to where the food is. They look like large dolphins except that they are 20-25 feet long and weigh up to 6000 pounds. They have “melon-heads” or rounded, bulbous heads like Baluga whales. This pod contained males, females, and juveniles, as well as a couple of newborns that stay with their mothers for 2 years. The babies swam sandwiched between 2 adults and would pop their heads up like a cork. It was pretty funny! Some would tail-slap and we even got to see a couple of leaps out of the water. They dove and surfaced quite frequently, so there was always something to watch. (The baby is on the right.)
We were floating right in the midst of all the action.
We ended up being about 8 miles offshore and we spent at least 30 minutes among the whales. AWESOME!!
On the ride back, the captain scouted for other pods of whales and wildlife, but with no luck. Still the ride back produced magnificent views of the rocky coastline and the road we’ll be traveling on tomorrow when we do the rest of the Cabot Trail around the island.
The road is the thin white line in the lower right-hand corner.
It wasn’t long before we were back to the harbor and tied up at the dock. What a morning it was!
On the way back, Bob wanted to check out this fish market so we stopped to look.
Driving back, we caught some of the views we missed on the way up.
We were both tired from the excitement and the fresh air. Arriving back at the camp at 2:30, Bob took a nap and Auggie and I took a walk down to the lake. It started to cloud up and look like rain while I sat and worked on my blog and Auggie sniffed to his heart’s content around the campsite. Today is Sunday, so by the time we returned from our whale watching expedition, many campers had left and the place was pretty empty. As usual, more campers arrived throughout the afternoon. Bob grilled lambchops and asparagus for dinner and we watched more of the Olympics. It was a memorable day, for sure!