Alrighty, I am not the best blogger in the world (gasp), so I am going to finish up Newfoundland by just going through some different categories. I’ll try to cover everything: the lodge and accommodations, the diving, the snorkeling with whales, and other little tidbits here and there.
Let me start with the diving. Ocean Quest (OQ) is equipped to serve any level of diver, from the most basic recreational diver who is still renting gear, to elite tech-divers with rebreather systems, and everything in-between. They have a complete shop with full service for drysuits, regulators, etc. Also, they have mixed gas-filling capabilities. Now, onto the actual dives, I made two reef dives (Chimney Cove and the Bell), which were excellent and suited for almost any skill level. Definitely cooler water, around 50F while I was diving in early august, only around around 30ft deep, visibility was over 40feet.The marine life is simply stunning, from large ocean pouts and wolfish, to beautiful sea stars and urchins. I could go on and on about the beauty of the dive, but I also want to describe the atmosphere. For these reef dives we zoomed smoothly out to the sites in 24’ ridged inflatables, once on the dive site the boat’s crew will help you in any way you need with your gear. After the dive we went to an isolated island to have a fire and bbq on the beach. I really cannot stress enough the friendliness and relaxed nature of this place. Next up are the wreck dives! I did three wreck dives during my time here. My first wreck dive was a shallow, beach dive (perfect for beginners!) It is known as the Conception Bay Whaling Wrecks, and it is basically where three whaling vessels were abandoned at the close of the industry in Newfoundland. They are fairly intact with some interesting photo opportunities.
Now I’ll talk about the big guys, the Bell Island Wrecks! To start, the boat Ocean Quest uses to access these sites is a beautiful, new 45ft boat. These four vessels were sunk by German U-boats during WWII and have a simply fascinating history. I strongly suggest you do a little google-based research, but there is so much more you can learn from experiencing it. The skippers onboard give a great predive briefing where they not only describe the dive conditions, but also a lot of the history in the wrecks. From the iron mines on Bell Island, to the shipment of the ore, there is so much WWII history it is unbelievable. Onto the diving… so I dove the Lord Strathcona and the Saganaca. Unfortunately, on the Lord Strath, my regulator free flowed and forced a short dive, but otherwise it was spectacular, great viz, awesome marine life, and an amazingly intact wreck. The next dive was also amazing, the Saganaca was beautiful with tons of structure remaining on its deck, and I got a reasonably long dive! I really cannot begin to do these wrecks justice, so if you want more information about the wrecks please look them up online or contact Ocean Quest! I would just like to stress, again, how great the people are. After my regulator free-flowed I was not planning on doing the second dive, which means I would have only done one of the Bell Island Wrecks (very disappointing), but nobody had any hesitation in offering me there spare regs to save the dive!
The next thing I’ll discuss is snorkeling with the whales! I’ll give the disclaimer that they are wild animals and no guarantees… but if you go july/early august it is highly, highly likely. I must have gotten out with them at least four times, and let me just say, it each time was awe inspiring. It is such a unique experience! To be so close to the animals… it is so humbling and awe inspiring. You get as close to about 15 or 20ft to them, and though they rarely stop moving, it is still amazing. Just watching them move sleekly, smoothly, and oh so powerfully through the water… just amazing. Now trust me, it really isn’t that cold in a 5 or 7mm suit, you’re only on the surface and for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, you really won’t be too cold. But, if you decide snorkeling isn’t for you, the boat ride is still fantastic. Even if you just stay on the boat, you’ll still get closer to the whales than you probably ever have in your life… plus going out on the 24’ inflatable out of beautiful Petty Harbor if very fun and beautiful.
Also, I will briefly describe the fishing. As a few people would now, around 20 years ago the economy completely changed in Newfoundland when a moratorium was placed on the Cod fisheries. They were grossly overfished, and something had to be done. By now, the fisheries will open for a few weeks at a time a few times a year for recreation. I was lucky enough to be in Newfoundland for one of these times, and I got to out fishing with Rick (Ocean Quest’s owner and founder), and some more of his family. Let me just say, in about 45 minutes, we managed to catch our limit (15 fish) of decent sized cod. There were a lot of small fish, which is a great sign for the recovering fishery, but we didn’t have too much trouble finding decent sized fish to max out the limit.
Now I just want to attempt to do the Ocean Quest facility in South Conception Bay justice, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It consists of three buildings, the “lodge,” “house,” and dive shop. Firstly The lodge consists of three floors: The lower floor is a spa, I don’t know much about that business, except that the locals love it there, and if the locals go there, it generally has to be good! The third floor consists mostly of just a few guests rooms (beautiful rooms that overlook Conception Bay and the islands)! The second floor is a little more exciting, it is a lounge area with a big projector, TV, some couches, and a bar. There are refrigerators/freezers the guests may use to store any groceries they need. This was a great place to hangout at any time, and breakfast is served here every morning!
A short ways away from Ocean Quest are grocery stores, restaurants, and a few other stores for anything you could really need! Also a short ways away is Manuels River, a nature preserve with beautiful trails and scenery. The trails are pristine and follow along a beautiful river leading out to the Ocean. It makes a really beautiful running route back and forth to Ocean Quest!
The dive shop is pretty standard: It has almost any gear/service you could possibly need during you’re stay here, as well as some awesome books detailing local diving and dive history. The employees in the shop are excellent and can assist you with any rental gear, service, or purchases you could need. Right across the driveway from the shop and attached to the house is an indoor training pool. In this pool we had a “finathon” to raise money for Project Aware to stop shark finning. Each person pledged a certain amount on each swimmer per lap, and I may have gotten a littleeeeeeeee bit competitive… I ended up swimming 152 laps and raising over $300 dollars!
Now “the house.” This helps show how committed and passionate Rick and Debbie are about their business. The house is not a misnomer, it is legitimately their home. The bottom floor is dedicated to guests, there are about 4 or 5 rooms downstairs for guests to stay in. The next floor is the kitchen, dining room, and living room, yet guests are completely welcome to pass through these areas and use them if need be. We had a few dinners (consisting mostly of delicious, freshly caught seafood) here. They are literally inviting you into their home… amazing. This level of hospitality is what makes Newfoundland truly amazing to me. I forgot my camera at a busy marina and found it exactly where I had left it hours later, a complete stranger offered to get me a coffee in the early morning baggage check line, and I have many more examples. The people truly make this place spectacular.
So overall, the scenery is incredibly, the diving is amazing, and the people are unbelievable. Truly a one of a kind diving (or hiking or fishing or… anything) destination.
If anyone has any questions about traveling to Newfoundland please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ocean Quest.