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Brier Island Whale Watching
Nova Scotia

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By Pat Mestern

Brier IslandWant to go whale watching? Nova Scotia is the place to do it. The Province is known for its excellent whale watching opportunities. Thousands of people arrive in the east coast province each year for the privilege of seeing these mammoth, marvelous, mammals.

One of the most productive areas for watching whales is the Bay of Fundy that separates the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. From high bluffs along the Fundy shore, it is often possible to see whales-if you're in the right spot, at the right time. But the best way to see and photograph whales is by taking a cruise on the Bay of Fundy.

WhaleBrier Island is not only an unspoiled "Brigadoon", it's also home to a number of whale watching expeditions. Mariner Cruises is one of the best in Nova Scotia. Reservations are definitely recommended. Cruises are offered daily from June through October, weather permitting. As some great whale watching takes place on a foggy day, so don't let weather discourage you.

Before we go whale watching, lets take a look at Brier Island. Getting to Brier means a drive down Digby Neck on Highway #101 past little communities such as Lake Midway Picnic area and Sandy Cove. There are two ferries to catch, one from East Ferry to Tiverton, the other from Freeport to Westport on the island. While driving down Digby Neck be sure to detour onto any of the side roads to see St. Mary's Bay on the left and the Bay of Fundy to the right.

Brier Island Lodge makes a great home for several nights and comes highly recommended. Rooms are nice. There's a library. The dining room is classy in a pleasant Nova Scotian way with windows that highlight vistas over Westport, Long Island and Grand Passage. Brier Island Lodge has homey touches such as goats and sheep on lawns, a mother hen and chicks that scratch in the flower beds. It's a great place to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world.

Grand Passage with Chicks Cliffs and Lodge

Northern LightThe island was named after the Brier rose that grows profusely on the l.5 mile wide and 4 mile long spit of land. As Brier is located on the Atlantic flyway, many species of birds visit its shores and feed in off-shore waters. The island's micro-climate allows for a proliferation of unique and rare plants, including the Pitcher Plant. Rugged shores and sheltered coves are home to seals, sea and shore birds.

As there aren't many roads on the island, visitors are encouraged to walk the winding gravel byways and cliff-top hiking trails. The sea around Brier Island has been the Fundy graveyard for ships for centuries. Lighthouses include the Brier Island Light & Alarm, Peters Island in Westport Harbour and the Northern Light. Be sure to set one day aside for a hike round the island. We began our hike at the Northern Point and ended just past Brier Island Light & Alarm in the Mucklehaney, passing Pea Jack Cove and Cow Cove along the way. Seals were plentiful Seal Cove, between Northern Point and Pea Jack Cove. Don't forget your telephoto lense! Leave some time to search for semi-precious mineral stones on beaches and rough shore-line.

Brier Island consists of a Basalt rock formation with columns of basalt on the southern shore while the north shore features dolomite with veins of quartz and agate. Shingle and cobble beaches yield agate, jasper, zeolite and amethyst for the avid collector.

Whale WatchingWhale Watching

Whale WatchingWhale Watching

Whales come to Fundy to have their babies and to feed in the Krill-rich waters of the Bay. Watchers are an intrusion and as such you must remember that the Bay is the whale's world and you are the intruder. It is a privilege to whale watch and one that shouldn't be abused. Depending on the season you may spot - or not - Pilot, Beluga, Sperm, Blue, Finback, Minke, Humpbacks and North Atlantic Right Whales. On any given day - or not - a variety of other sea species can be seen including tuna, sea turtle, Ocean Sunfish, Basking sharks, schools of Herring, swarms of Krill and Plankton.

Westport Wesport

Our boat left at noon hour in a slight fog and calm sea. For four hours, which seemed like two, we had the privilege of seeing, hearing and smelling whales - up close and personal. The huge mammals put on quite a show, sky-hopping to get a better look at the boat and pe ople in it. They rolled, showing fins and tails then dived under the boat to surface again for another look. Whale watching is akin to sitting in a haystack and waiting for the needle to come to you. You don't rush the business of watching for these gigantic mammals. Good cruise operators shut the boat's engine off when locating whales in specific areas. By doing this, whales can be heard!. We had the rare treat of hearing whales "speak" to each other. Wonderful! And yes, whale's breath smells horrible! When they blow, plug your nose!

Overlooking WestportThe Bay of Fundy can be very rough. If prone to seasickness, ask cruise operators what you can do to try to avoid it. If it's any consolation, hubby who does get sea sick, didn't have a problem. We avoided juice and greasy food at breakfast. As bringing lunch on the cruise was recommended, we had cheese, crackers and bottled water along for a snack. It is important to wear warm clothing. Be sure to bring your camera, telephoto lense and lots of film. Ask the operator where the best spot is on the boat for picture taking.

Back to wee "Brigadoon". You'll fall in love with the village of Westport on the Island, population 305. It boasts a general store & gas bar, several gift shops and post office. There are churches on the island but no school. Children are taken off-island by bus to schools in Freeport. If planning to take the ferry, and you see a school bus at the dock, you'll have to wait for the next boat. School busses must travel alone on the ferry. Students wear life jackets and, believe it or not, even though they live by the sea, some do get seasickness.

WhaleYou'll find it hard to leave such a pristine island. Plan your visit to extend over at least two days. Bring hiking boots, walking sticks, cameras and warm clothing. Don't forget a pouch to hold your beachcombing finds.


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