Newfoundland is famous for its near unparalleled whales-watching. The area around this part of Canada hosts the world's largest concentration of humpback whales, which migrate to the area every summer. While off the shore of Newfoundland, the whales enjoy gorging in the nutrient-rich waters after spending the long winter down south.
In addition to humpbacks, the waters also serve as a home for minke and finback whales, as well as white-beaked dolphins, porpoise and several pods of orca. This hefty concentration of large sea animals off the coast not only makes Newfoundland a hotspot for marine biologists, but for amateur whale watchers as well.
Whale-watchers can watch for whales by land, by sea kayak or by boat. However, it is usually very unlikely for self-guided groups to get a glimpse. As whales can be particularly curious about visiting boats, it can also occasionally be dangerous to head out alone, as they don't seem to know their own size. So for the best chance of seeing whales in the safest environment, then it is best to book a trip with a tour operator.
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Iceberg Quest has two locations in St John and Twillingate, where boats leave port every day to give tours. As whales only come around in May and leave around September, during that time period visitors have the best chance to spot some whales. However, there are plenty of other interesting sea creatures to see during the rest of the year.
While Iceberg Quest treat their guests to sightings of all different kinds of marine life, the humpback whale is most commonly-spotted on their tours. This creature is among the largest on earth, weighing up to 30 tonnes. These creatures are intelligent, but incredibly playful and curious. They enjoy checking out visiting boats by bumping them, breaching (giving everyone a good splash if they are too close) and slapping their tails on the water.
Another common star on whale-watching tours is the minke whale. In comparison to the humpback whale, they are much shyer and less prone to amazing feats of acrobatics. For those who have the pleasure of seeing a minke whale, they may mistake them for a baby whale. While the humpback is the largest baleen whale, the minke is the second smallest. However, while they are nearly half the size of the humpback, they are still an impressive six metres long. The minke isn't quite a show off, but they still breech to come up for air. Visitors are treated to views of their backs and dorsal fins, but will rarely ever get a peek at their tails. While the tail is a rare sight, an even more unusual occurrence is if they peek their narrow head above the surface. It is unlikely the minke will join in with the humpbacks' investigation of the boat, however they still occasional peek up around tour boats.
The finback whale is often easily confused with the minke whale. They have the same narrow head and greyish coloring, but the primary difference is that when the finback breeches the water, it seems to just keep going, and going, and going. It is just slightly smaller than the humpback, but still bears the title of the second largest whale on earth. It has often helped fund the misconception that the minke whale is much larger than it actually is, as they are so similar in their looks. They are an uncommon sight in the waters off the coast of Newfoundland, as they are not naturally curious, but like the minke whale, they are occasionally seen.
While the minke and finback whales are uncommon to spot, very lucky visitors may be find a pod of orcas, or as they are more commonly known, killer whales. These creatures are actually the world's largest species of porpoise.
While Iceberg Quest and a large number of other tour operators will take visitors out on their boats to go watch the whales up closem, they do not offer sea kayaking tours out to see them. Whales, especially humpbacks, don't know their own size so whale watching via sea kayak is a liability that many tour operators do not want to undertake. However, there is no bigger rush than feeling your small kayak rock and wobble in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean as a huge whale breeches next to it. And just because most tour operators won't undertake the challenge doesn't mean no one will...
Outfitter Adventure Tours leads groups out by sea kayak on a number of adventures in the Bay Bulls area. Guests can tour icebergs, watch diving puffins and explore the water. Come whale season, they have no problem taking visitors to where the whales are. Visitors are treated to sightings of humpback, finback and the occasional minke, although spotting a killer whale is still rare in that area. Before heading out, they provide instructional sessions and visitors can plan their own custom trips if desired.
No matter what sort of tour whale watchers in Newfoundland decide to undertake, the sheer number of these sea creatures in the area assures that no one will leave disappointed.