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For a thousand years, Newfoundland has drawn explorers — the Vikings, Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson. This coming summer you can join them in discovering one of the world’s last natural places. The rugged sea cliffs of the coastal islands teem with guillemots (murres), gulls, razorbilled auks, puffins, and other species of seabird. We will visit places where seabirds are so plentiful they block the sun. Newfoundland boasts North America’s second largest gannet colony, together with the Continent’s four largest Atlantic puffin colonies, and the world’s two largest Leach’s storm petrel colonies. This storm petrel is the world’s second most common seabird. The forty seabird species found off the rugged coast include a variety of gulls and sea ducks, together with five million shearwaters from the southern hemisphere. You don’t have to be a birdwatcher to be awed by the variety and numbers. Inland you’ll find osprey, bald eagles, grouse, ptarmigan, and a unique combination of northern and sub-arctic birds. When it’s time to take a break from looking at the birds, there’s world-class whale watching, huge caribou herds, challenging salmon rivers, and a moose population greater than the population of historic St. John’s, the capital city. Newfoundland’s cities and towns offer you the hospitality for which the island is famous, plus a unique blend of seafaring traditions and modern conveniences. Come prepared to have fun! The following are some commonly asked questions and answers about our Newfoundland programs. For further information, please feel free to contact us! We always reply.
Q-What is the weather like?
A-Day-time summer temperatures can range from 10-25 °C (50-75 °F), while nights may go a few degrees lower. The weather is quite changeable, so be prepared. It is not unusual for people to wear T-shirts and shorts while viewing 15-storey-tall icebergs.
Q-What should I bring?
A-Along with the clothing you would regularly bring, take a warm sweater, raingear, light boots, and (very important) your camera and binoculars. Sunscreen is very important for our boat trips as the sunlight reflects off the water. Our leaders carry field guides and local literature for you to enjoy during the holiday.
Q-Will we see whales?
A-In season — late June to early August — our visiting groups have always seen humpback whales. Often other whale species — minke, dolphin, fin — are also seen. There may be single days when whales elude us, but during this time the whale watching is the best in the world. Every summer we have days where our guests see four to six species and dozens of individuals. We have been studying and watching whales since 1979 without incident, but there is always the possibility that climatic or oceanographic changes might cause a redistribution of these animals. No one can make promises for nature, but she has been very good to our guests over the years. In 2001 we started providing research expeditions (our Southern Labrador Adventure) looking at orcas and humpbacks off northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador in September. These excursions also enjoy fabulous success with up to six whale species and 20,000 individual whales/dolphins on our trip lists.
Q-Are there any dangerous plants or animals?
A-Newfoundland does not have any snakes, other reptiles, skunks, poison ivy, poison oak, or ragweed. Lyme disease has not been found here. Common sense will prevent most problems. Occasionally groups will see black bears. Your guide will advise you on the best way to avoid these powerful animals, but common sense is still your most important asset. Mushroom lovers please note: Newfoundland has a wonderful and diverse mushroom fauna, but the indicators of safe mushrooms in Europe usually denote hazardous North American species. To be safe it is best to avoid picking them.
Q-I want two or more weeks in Newfoundland, but your programs are one week long. Can people travel with Wildland Tours and then set out independently?
A-Yes. Guests often use our week-long tours to orientate themselves to Newfoundland before setting out to explore the place on their own. Our leaders are a wealth of information, and they can help you plan the perfect independent holiday for yourself.
Q-I like to travel independently, but I also like the idea of going with a local expert. How much freedom is there on a Wildland Tours holiday?
A-There is a great deal of freedom and fun! For example, at our caribou viewing stop we usually find a herd ranging in size from several dozen to several thousand animals. Everyone is free to wander the countryside on your own, photograph wildlife, and explore; but we do ask that you not get lost! At some sea cliff areas our guests can choose to sit and watch the whales and wildlife go by or walk along the scenic coastline. Evenings are always free although we do offer optional moose and bear hunts (with camera only!) from our rural hotels. During our time in the cities there are lots of wonderful evening entertainment options. On other portions of the holiday there is free time for exploring, shopping, canoeing, fishing, etc.
Q-Are there many flies and mosquitoes?
A-As with any wild place, there is a diversity of insect life. We spend most of our time in coastal areas where there are very few pests. Even when we go inland the flies are seldom a serious problem. We should point out, however, that you should prepare for flies on the in-land stops of the Labrador portion of the Viking Trail Experience.
Q-I have vertigo. Will this be a problem? What about seasickness?
A Although we do travel near some cliffs, you will not be required to walk close to a cliff edge at any point. We visit a spectacular gannet stack, which we also use for land-based whale watching. American writer Robert Finch said this about the place: “Here a person could go up to the very lip of oblivion with nothing to stop him but the will to live.” You can, however, enjoy the wonders without going too close. In fact, a traditional ballad, Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s, inspired by this remote, rugged place is perhaps the most haunting song in the large repertoire of unique Newfoundland music. If you are prone to seasickness, you can still fully participate in our Newfoundland Adventures, Viking Trail Experiences, and May Magics. We have the flexibility to avoid rough seas, and usually the waters are so calm that seasickness is not an issue. Even the Whale Study Week is usually fine for people who occasionally suffer from motion sickness.
Q-How safe is the city?
A-St. John’s people have a long tradition of welcoming visitors and providing world-famous hospitality. The city’s roots go back over 500 years. Its rugged, sometimes bloody history has somehow shaped it into one of North America’s most peaceful and friendly urban areas. St. John’s boasts North America’s lowest murder rate, and the urban parts of the entire province are protected by the last police force on the continent to carry firearms. (Despite the low crime rates and a decline in offences, the police succumbed to “pistol envy” in 1998 and became an armed force.) There is very little crime, but guests should always follow the basic rules of travel safety.
Q-How ecologically friendly is Wildland Tours?
A-Wildland Tours has been offering holidays for animal lovers since 1984. Prior to 1984, company president Dave Snow worked as a wildlife and environmental researcher. In the early days of Wildland Tours, Dave worked as a teacher and as a science educator with a new environmental education centre. Whales, seabirds, and salmon were all areas of hands-on field work. Dave continues to write for a variety of magazines and work for environmental causes. Wildland Tours sponsors a local environmental education scholarship and contributes to worthwhile causes. The company also runs a gift gallery for nature lovers. This gallery is located below the Wildland Tours offices in St. John’s and serves as a local headquarters for guests. The gallery highlights the natural wonders of Newfoundland and Labrador. All of the company’s activities incorporate recycling and conservation measures. The company and its staff have received local and national honors for their environmental leadership, including the 1990 Governor General’s Award for Conservation. This national honor recognized David’s participation in numerous environmental protection campaigns and his efforts as an environmental journalist. With that award, Wildland Tours President David Snow joined a long line of distinguished previous winners including David Suzuki and Robert Bateman. In early 2000, Wildland Tours received the provincial award from the Canadian Parks Service recognizing our pioneering efforts in developing sustainable tourism.
Q-How good are the holiday leaders?
A-Our leaders boast a great mix of local experience and knowledge. Some are authors, others are professors, and all sport a unique mix of knowledge, humor, and training. Expect a qualified, remarkable, and fun traveling companion.
Q-What is the refund policy if I can’t make the trip?
A-Everything is totally refundable until 30 days from a holiday’s start date. Full payment is required at the 30 day point but if you have to cancel, we usually keep 10 per cent or provide a full refund if we get a replacement person on the holiday. Some of our hotels do charge if a reservation is cancelled within 30 days so we do need to assess a fee. If you cancel on the planned day of arrival, we will still refund 50 per cent of the holiday costs. We are more generous than the large holiday companies who keep your money when unforeseen events disrupt your travel plans because we truly want to share the wonders of our home land with you.
Q-I am a birder. Is this a good vacation for me?
A-The Viking Trail Experience incorporates two ferry rides described as one of the planet’s best pelagic bird watching trips. (This adventure is the ferry ride between Labrador and Newfoundland. Non-birders enjoy the whales, seals, and icebergs on this trip.) The Newfoundland Adventure holiday features some of the world’s most significant seabird colonies but we also take the time to enjoy land birds, wildflowers, whales, moose, and everything else nature has to offer. Our hotels in many locations feature some very good birding trails and our leaders sometimes lead early morning bird walks (while the non-birders continue sleeping). Birders and all interested guests receive Newfoundland bird checklists and our leaders all carry field guides. A person who loves birding and enjoys other aspects of a holiday (scenery, culture, music, butterflies, plants, animals, etc.) will enjoy all of the holidays listed on our website. If you want nothing but birds on your vacation we do provide exclusive birding holidays to some American Audubon societies and European birding groups every year. Contact us for those dates and itineraries.
Q-My interest is history and archaeology. Should I take one of your tours?
A-Our Viking Trail Experience holiday has been described as one of the most archaeologically diverse vacations in the world. The new world’s oldest burial mound (older than the pyramids!), the only authenticated Viking site in North America, and various national historic sites and parks tell the story of 10,000 years of human habitation. The mountains, wildlife, geology, fossils, unique foods and culture all work to enhance your understanding of how the early peoples and more recent folk lived in this unique maritime landscape. Besides the spectacular wildlife and amazing sights, our Newfoundland Adventure is a history lover’s delight that also features some interesting time travels. You’ll visit the ongoing archaeological excavation of Baltimore’s 1621 colony where archaeologists and enthusiastic visitors are unearthing approximately 4,000 artifacts a week! Stroll around the site of the last battle of the Seven Year War! Hear the true tales of pirates and princesses!
Q-What is the biggest challenge of these holidays?
A-Our exotic location at the continent’s eastern edge usually makes it necessary to book airline tickets early in order to select your choice travel dates and receive the best airfare. Check out the Travel Information section on this website.
Q-What is the policy with respect to tips or gratuities?
A-During your tour with us all of the tips for restaurant meals, site visits, hotels, boat crews, etc. are included although many guests do enjoy providing a special thank you to on-site guides and boat crews or whenever they receive exceptional personal service. When you are eating on your own the typical gratuity ranges from 10% - 20% depending upon the service and your personal preferences. Tipping for tour directors (our leaders) and drivers, while customary, is not included in the cost of your tour. Like many others in the hospitality industry, these workers depend on gratuities for a substantial portion of their incomes. Tipping should be from each individual tour member according to his or her own preference, and not in the form of a group collection. Drivers and tour directors are usually tipped at the end of the tour. Although this is a sensitive subject and is of course an individual decision, the following amounts are recognized industry guidelines and are provided for information purposes only. Naturally, if the service you have received has been outstanding, this should be reflected in tipping amounts. Professional tour directors: $5 to $8 per person per day. Drivers: $3 to $5 per person per day. Driver/Guides: $6 to $10 per person per day.
Contact us anytime should you have any other questions.