Whale watching tours provide wildlife views

BAR HARBOR, Maine— Just outside of the harbor I can hear the constant hum of an engine. The vast, blue ocean extends to the horizon with outlines of mountains and lighthouses in the distance, while the harsh wind whips through my hair, making me feel unsteady

Over the hum, I can barely hear the sound of naturalist, Zach McDaniels, providing spectators with commentary and facts about the surrounding wildlife. McDaniels is leading a whale watching tour.

One of the lighthouses that the whale watching ship passes in the distance (Photos by Mikayla Vielot). acadiawhalewatching1

As the catamaran zips through the Gulf of Maine, the cool October air whips past myself and the other spectators brave enough to watch from the dock. At the start of the tour, everyone crowded around trying to capture the images of distant mountains and wildlife with their cameras. Shortly after, as the boat began picking up speed, many went inside. The brave ones stayed on the dock, clutching their jackets and snapping away with their cameras. I was nervous each time I attempted to take a picture because I thought I would lose my balance.

McDaniels is a graduate of The College of the Atlantic and has worked with whales for many years. He continued to narrate the boat ride, pointing out various historical lighthouses, hawks, seagulls and puffins. He even hinted that there was a strong possibility there would be a whale sighting that day as it was the end of the season.

“This is the end of the season for us up here. Temperatures are dropping drastically and as we are packing up to fly South, the whales are all leaving too,” Neil Paul, a company representative said. “It is simply too cold to be out on the boat and in the water.”

Back inside the boat, Julianne Richards is preparing for the worse. With strong waves and almost a three and a half hour boat ride ahead of her, she begins making her rounds throughout the cabin.

acadiawhalewatching2 Onlookers snap photos at the beginning of the ride. The winds were very strong.

I must have looked pale because Richards walked straight over to me carrying a bag. I told her I felt nauseous and just needed to sit down. I quickly grabbed a nearby wastebasket and immediately threw up. It was so embarrassing but I instantly felt better- or so I thought.

“Everyone gets seasick. It’s bound to happen, especially on a day like today. It was extremely windy and the boat was rocking a lot,” she said comfortingly.

Making her way through the cabin, she notices the pale faces and uneasiness of many other guests, old or young. She made another round before stopping back near I was and attempted to comfort the other young ladies I was travelling with. Hearts racing, dizziness and nausea had taken over the girls.

Anabell Bernot, a senior at the University of Miami, could not pass up the opportunity to go whale watching. However, as she sat on the rocky boat, watching me struggle with the same uneasy feeling, she was dealing with; she knew the moment was coming. Another wave came over me and I immediately rushed to the bathroom, with my friend following at my heels. Bernot was right behind us, waiting her turn.

A passenger cruise ship makes it way towards Bar Harbor, bringing more tourists. acadiawhalewatching3

“Even though we all got sick, I still think it was worth it because I got to see dolphins in their natural habitat and exotic birds I have never seen before,” she said.

Bernot and her friends were not the only ones. Richards brought everyone ginger ale, napkins and recommended they purchase Dramamine from the concessions stand on the boat.

“Dramamine is great,” Richards said. “Everyone uses it, whether you work on the boat every day or you’re on one of these tours. We all need it to cope with the motion sickness.”

Once I realized I could not sit still without feeling nauseous, I spread out over four chairs and forced myself to sleep the remainder of the tour. I woke up an hour or so later to see most of the cabin had also decided a nap would help. Despite getting seasick, it was worth the $65 to see the scenery and wildlife. I wish I had been prepared for the motion sickness so that I could experience the entire ride.


If You Go

  • Arrive early, the line is long and you want to secure a nice spot on the boat
  • Wear layers for boat ride
  • Bring a camera

Nearby activities

  • Kayaking
  • Lobster fishing
  • Scenic flights of Acadia
  • Coastal bike rides

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