Our daughter Alison visited us in Nova Scotia last week. Aside from seeing us (so she said), her top priority was whale watching. She wanted to see some whales. So we researched the best places - which means we asked all our friends here - and the answer was unanimous. "Go down to Digby."
Digby is a small town in southwestern Nova Scotia known for scallop fishing. (Yes, we had fresh Digby scallops for dinner - later in the story.) We found that to see the whales, we had to go past the town of Digby, down the Digby Neck, to Long Island and Brier Island at the end of the peninsula. The Digby Neck is a very slim peninsula that extends into the Bay of Fundy. There was one road right down the middle with water on both sides. Don't count on GPS for this. My phone read NO SERVICE for most of the trip. You just have to trust that there is only one road and you are on it going south. After a three hour drive and two ferry crossings (and a little drama about how much gas we had left), we arrived at Brier Island, the farthest south we could go these islands on land. And just so you know, you can buy gas at the General Store on Brier Island. #marriagesaver
We booked our tour with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. which turned out to be a great choice. We ended up on the bigger boat, the Mega Nova, instead of the small zippy boats because our daughter was pregnant and expectant mothers are not allowed on the Zodiacs (small fast boats) due to liability issues. Another thing you need to know!
The day was spectacular, sunny but not too warm, and the water was smooth and calm. Perfect day for a boat ride. And then there were the whales. We saw minke whales first on the way out into the Bay of Fundy. These whales "don't like boats" and head the opposite direction so we just saw them in the distance. But the humpback whales are curious creatures. They surfaced right beside the boat and floated alongside us, blowing and diving.
The captain cut the engine and we floated in the bay watching the whales. We often saw 3 or 4 surfacing at the same time. You can see their white underbellies just below the surface of the water. They can grow to the size of a school bus, although we didn't see any quite that large.
Like other large whales, humpbacks were hunted to the brink of extinction. Their numbers are increasing, thanks to protections from numerous countries. Canada added more regulations this summer, requiring boaters to maintain a buffer zone around the whales or face hefty fines.
Our tour guide commented, "Some of these whales have been around long enough to remember the days of harpooning and they still trust us enough to let us see them. They're very gentle creatures." We need more protections for these gentle giants all over our planet.