In their 20th year, Ocean Quest Adventures ups the ante when it comes to getting close to nature
The day before this writer headed out on the sea with Ocean Quest Adventures an email arrived from their head office. Filled with information; sailing time and cast-off location. it also included a few inquiries, asking for everything from height and weight to shoe size, which led to one very interesting phone call.
It turned out this wasn’t your typical whale watching excursion after all, this would be the trip at sea of a lifetime.
When you set sail with Ocean Quest on this particular voyage, it’s actually more like a whale encounter and the measurements were needed to outfit guests with snorkeling gear so they could get up close and personal with those mammal friends of the sea; humpback whales.
I decided I’d play along, reassuring myself with the knowledge that I could probably bow out and skip the slip into the water if my nerves got the better of me; using ‘I’m an observer’ as my media-on-the-scene excuse.
Captain Johnny O.
Greeted warmly by Ocean Quest Adventures staff, including the zodiac’s very enthusiastic Captain, John Olivero and his equally energetic boat-mates, Meryn Avery and Cateline Landry, we were immediately down to business the morning of the sailing.
Much was going on, and fellow guests including Irene, originally from Chile, Melissa and Tony from Halifax, Suzanne and Guillaume from Quebec and Michael and Jareth from Australia, followed instructions, donned the wet-suit provided and grabbed the snorkeling gear. It was into the zodiac. After introductions and more instructions, including this fact; there’s only one captain, and he’s in charge, we were off.
After years spent sailing off our coasts with teams of divers and professionals from National Geographic, Ocean Quest staff have learned their trade from some of the best in the business. Nerves settled as Cateline, who just happens to be a marine biologist, filled us in on the whales we would be most likely swimming with; the humpback. Cateline would be joining us in the water that day as Meryn, a dive master in training, observed from the boat with the Captain.
After spotting our first whale, a fin whale, the second-largest animal in the world after the blue whale, it was over the side to get our feet – or fins – wet.
There were humpbacks in the distance, but none close enough to see while snorkeling. Back into the boat we slid, now more confident and experienced. Moments later, a rare treat; a pod of orca whales swimming with our zodiac, zipping back, forth and underneath, white markings visible beneath the surface.
The Ocean Quest staff became incredibly excited. This was the first time they had ever encounter these killer whales while out at sea, a highlight for all. While thrilled, it also meant we had to stay inside the boat for safety reasons. For now, anyway.
We watched some nearby humpbacks frolic with their young, explored a nearby iceberg, and received a surprise dunking from our chuckling captain before being sent back over the side and into the water when he spied more humpback whales.
Swimming within sight of these gentle giants of the sea was incredibly invigorating and unquestionably rewarding. It was a day no one would soon forget.
For your own Ocean Quest encounters with nature tour, visit their website: