The Prince of Tides

Marine Wildlife Abounds in Canada’s Bay of Fundy

Looking for the ultimate wave? Forget Hawaii; consider instead New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy, whose natural funnel shape helps create the highest tides in the world, up to an incredible 48 feet. High tide or low, Canadian New Brunswick has much more to offer than just the mighty force of nature.

New Brunswick’s national parks provide the opportunity to experience nature first-hand, providing a habitat for many different species of animals, including puffins, loons and coyotes. Located just outside of the thriving town of Saint John, the Irving Nature Park houses six different ecosystems: a bog, Acadia forest, salt marshes, mud flats, a rocky shoreline and a barrier beach. According to Kelly Honeyman, a naturalist at the park, the location and terrain is perfect not only for indigenous species, but also for migrating birds. The mud flats are home to millions of organisms that provide migrating birds sustenance for their journeys to South America. Sandpipers, for instance, can eat mud shrimp at the phenomenal rate of 16,000 every six hours. Late August is an ideal time to spot shore birds, with 248 different species stopping off to prepare for their long migrations. Access to the park is free.

The park’s tidal rivers open out onto The Bay of Fundy, which is a feeding ground for a variety of whale species. Whale-watching excursions are widely available and can last anywhere from a few hours to all day. Located in St. Andrews, the Fundy Tide Runners use a Zodiac Hurricane to speed 18 to 20 nautical miles out from the cove in search of whales. Between mid-July and the end of October, you have an 85 to 90 percent chance of catching a glimpse of one of four different species: the humpback, the finback, the minke and the endangered North Atlantic right whale. In the beginning of September last year, four humpbacks and 12 finbacks were spotted in a single day. Although the rule is that boats must stop within 100 meters of a whale, the whales themselves have no such restriction; they can swim right up to you. Don’t worry if they get too close; they rarely overturn boats. (Zodiac excursions cost $42.99 per adult.)

New Brunswick’s parks also provide extensive hiking facilities. The Fundy National Park at Alma has 110 kilometers of biking and hiking trails—ranging from easy to difficult—in addition to camping facilities. (Prices for access to park facilities vary.) The Irving Nature Park contains about 15 kilometers of trails, and sports an observation deck that overlooks a rock outcropping where Harbor Seals bask in the sun from mid-October to mid-June. The seal population is most abundant in February and March, when you can see as many as 250 at a time.

One of the more unusual wonders of the Fundy tides is Reversing Falls, located in Saint John. At low tide, water rushes through the Saint John Harbor into the river, creating turbulent rapids. At high tide, the rising water of the harbor stops and then overpowers the downward flow of water in the river, such that the current runs upstream, thus creating rapids once again. Normally, the Falls are only navigable at slack tide, when the river ceases flowing altogether, but the Reversing Falls Jet Boat Ride ($18 per person) runs all the time. Be prepared to get wet; but if getting soaked is not on your agenda, you can witness this marvel from the observation deck.

Other outdoor activities abound on the bay. Coastal hiking enables you to experience the interaction of water and land on an intimate level. And Cape Enrage Adventures organizes canoeing and kayaking excursions that enable you to experience the Fundy tides one-on-one. If you’re a risk-taker, you might also want to try rope climbing at Cape Enrage, and the nearby St. Martins Caves are great for spelunking (again, prices vary).

Air Canada provides convenient and comfortable travel to Saint John, although a transfer of planes at Montreal or Halifax is necessary (roundtrip from New York $506.72 U.S.; from Los Angeles, $498.22). Passports are helpful, but not necessary with proper identification. Once you have arrived in New Brunswick, you can easily find Earth-friendly accommodations; the Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts chain has implemented a green partnership program that matches eco-tourers with Earth-friendly places to stay.