Trip OverviewFollowing the wedding of our oldest son in Boston, my wife and I and two of our children headed to Cheticamp, N.S. We had arranged for a guided 3 day paddle tour of the western coast of Cape Breton as we wanted to maximize our chances to see whales. The body of water is technically the "Gulf of St. Lawrence".
We were provided with tandem kayaks, flotation devices, spray skirts, tents, sleeping pads and all the food we could eat, which was expertly prepared by our guide, Mike. Our hope of seeing whales was quickly realized within the first 2 hours of paddling. The day was overcast but dry with gentile one foot rolling swells. We spotted a small pod of pilot whales about a half mile offshore from our course. We paddled to within 200 yards of the pod before it dispersed.
As we paddled towards the coast to return to our northbound course, we noted 3 whales swimming parallel to us and within 50 yards of us. By the time we were back on course, which was about a half mile off shore we had to stop paddling as we were surrounded by over twenty pilot whales surfacing around our group of 4 kayaks. Our guide, Mike explained they were feeding on mackerel, and that we were probably floating over a school of them. The North River Kayak outfitted our trip and their web site has a video of an experience that mirrors ours. We were in the midst of this feeding with the whales surfacing all around our boats. It is difficult to describe the joy of the experience let alone the graceful, effortless beauty of the whales swimming past our kayaks close enough to touch, calves swimming in perfect synchrony with their mothers.
The rest of the trip was not quite as eventful but still most enjoyable as the Cape Breton coastline is lush and rugged laced with waterfalls and a few coves for shore lunches and overnight camping. North River did a commendable job, making the trip a memorable outdoor adventure. The 4 of us comprised a small group by owner of North River Kayak, Angelo Spinazzola was exceptionally helpful with trip arrangements. The trip was an easy paddle the first day, but rather breezy with up to 3 foot swells breaking at their crest on day 2, thus a moderately difficult paddle.
Accommodations:Cheticamp is more of an active fishing community than a tourist spot but there are decent motel accommodations. We stayed there as it is near an entrance to Cape Breton Nat Pk, which is where we met our guides
Outfitting:Perception tandems with bow and stern storage.
Fees:yes... however, our guides covered these so am not certain of permit cost
Directions:About a 10 hour drive from Boston.
Resources:North River kayak web site (www.northriverkayak.com/) was my prime source, along with Frommer's guide for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, & Prince Edward Island.
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: Open Water/Ocean