Captain Wayne’s Marine Excursions
One my hearts desires while on the island of Newfoundland was to see puffins and whales, as I have never witness one in the wild before. Our first stop for this bucket list item was Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
Within this magical location, one of nature’s greatest wonders occur. In the summer months, millions of seabirds make these four small islands their home. These migratory seabirds generally spend most of their year at sea, only returning to shore to nest and raise their young. During these peak summer months the capelin draw in millions of these seabirds, as well thousands of whales migrate to these lush summer feeding grounds. Especially humpback and minkes can be viewed joining in on the feeding frenzy of these delicious little fish. The best way to view this mass of migrating aquatic species is by boat, many tour companies operate out of nearby bays.
Captain Wayne Marine Excursions was our first choice, when deciding which boat tour to join. He designed and built his own boat, just for the purpose of viewing wildlife within Witless Bay. Catering to photographers and wildlife aficionados, he only takes out smaller groups of people. Captain Wayne offers three tour times a day. In the morning there is the, “Early Riser Tour” it offers calm seas and low winds most of the time, which is perfect for photographing from a boat. After lunch there is the, “Wet and Wild Tour” with a possibility of windy afternoons, which can lead to more spray. And then there is the, “Evening Light Tour” it is by far my favourite for photography. There is beautiful golden light cast across the islands and the wildlife, which leads to magical photographic opportunities.
We signed up for both the morning and the evening tours. It was a beautiful day when we arrived at Captain Wayne’s Dock, the sun was shinning over the boat casting reflections into the pristine blue bay. Captain Wayne mentioned that his boat tours are a, “No heels, no flip flop kinda tour!” And that he has actually had people try to come aboard with unsafe boat footwear. He got us outfitted into some stylish floaters jackets, to help keep us warm in the cooler ocean breezes and if anything were to happen, keep us afloat in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. As the boat disembarked from the dock, the excitement started to grow that over the next two hours we would see humpback whales and puffins galore.
Captain Wayne pulled in a cove with towering sedimentary rock cliffs above, turned rusty red from the salt water. Emerald forests stretched along these cliffs and Captain Wayne even pointed out a bald eagle sitting atop a nest. As we headed out of the cove, someone spotted a spout of spray jetting into the horizon. Then we were off on the trail of the glorious humpback whale, Captain Wayne teaches you how to spot the path of the whale. You can actually see their white fins with black spots under the water, it appears as an amazing teal green colour. Captain Wayne is very respectful of the animals, he knows how to get close without disrupting their personal space. One of the humpback whale's that we were following had a rope from lobster trap entangled in his baleen. We floated near the whale, so close that we could have reached out and touched it. Captain Wayne contacted the proper authorities on the radio, so the whale would be in good hands.
Next Captain Wayne steered the boat towards Gull Island, a great nesting place for seabirds. Lets just be upfront, if you are fearful of birds this is definitely not the tour for you! Thousands of seabirds will be flying over head, plus countless more will litter the island before you. We spotted guillemots, razorbills, black-legged kittiwakes and common murres, all here on this island to nest and raise their young during the summer months when the food supply is high. Puffins dotted the grassy knolls of the island, here they burrow to make their nest. They stay out in the Atlantic until they are three years old, then come back to the island to find a mate for life. The bachelor puffins still awaiting finding their “one” cluster down on the rocks trying to impress a mate, their antics can be quite hilarious hence the nickname, "Clowns of the Sea." Captain Wayne pulled the boat into a calm cove near a large rocky outcrop, where there was a lone bachelor puffin sitting atop the rocks. He eyed the boat quite curiously, then began strutting his stuff and posing for our cameras. We sat there for some time photographing our little model.
Captain Wayne’s Marine Excursion was by far one of my favourite boat tours in Newfoundland. The small boat size was perfect for getting close to the birds on the island, as well as the whales. Captain Wayne’s passion, knowledge and respect for the wildlife in Witless Bay really shines though. It made me fall in love with the area even more!
About Captain Wayne’s Marine Excursions:
Trips are 2-3 hours in length.
Weather and sea conditions permitting.
Please arrive 15 minutes early for a trip briefing and floater jacket fitting.
Best time for viewing Seabirds and Whales is the month of July.
Striving to deliver the most exciting photographic opportunities to adventure travellers.
The Captain has been a local guide and steward for over thirty years.
A knowledgable Naturalist contributing photos to Scientific Groups for tracking Humpback Whales.
Caters to small groups, will only take out maximum eight people at a time.
Knows how to get close respectfully, without disturbing the wildlife.
Located in Bay Bulls on Northside Road, 30 mins. South of St.John’s, Newfoundland
address: 144 Northside Rd, Goulds, NL A1S 1R3, Canada
What to Bring:
Dry sack for camera gear
Dress in layers ( the temperature on land is not always the same as at sea)
A snug hat or tilley hat (so it does not blow away in the ocean breezes)
Gloves (just in case, depending on weather)
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