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Travel Writing: The Bay of Fundy

The singles’ bar is crowded, the males on the prowl. Amid a romantic mist and saltwater perfume, tails are thrashing and torsos spinning. All the frothing water and raging hormones can only mean one thing: The northern right whales will soon mate.

This is the Bay of Fundy at its best, a place where many adjectives seem pale and weak. Shared by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the bay is a crucible for humility and awe.

People will talk about the tides, the world’s highest. When moon and sun exert their most profound influence, 14 metres mark the difference between ebb and apogee. Fishing boats tied to a four-storey wharf will be resting on the sea bottom mere hours later. At Hopewell Rocks, people can walk among towering sandstone sculptures carved by rushing waters. At high tide, only coniferous tonsures remain.

Yes, incredible tides color life here, but so does the natural splendor. People living along the Fundy coast welcome tourists in hushed tones. In the charming village of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, more than one local admonished me to preserve their little secret, so dramatic and unspoiled.

But how could I? How could anyone?

Visitors kayaking along coastal nooks and crannies feel lost for words. Backpackers hike New Brunswick’s contribution to the Trans-Canada Trail, discovering that every dip and turn begs for a photograph. Contemplative tourists ride horses along the Shepody Marshlands with religious solemnity. Most leave as Fundy coast evangelists.

“It is beautiful,” says whale watcher David Welch, co-owner of St. Andrews’ Fundy Tide Runners. “Even if I tried, I couldn’t take the bay for granted.”

Welch knows the tides and the gorgeous coastline intimately. But he also knows that the Bay of Fundy is magical because it is teeming. Because it lives and breathes. Lazy seals catch a few rays on rocky islands. Dolphins play and frolic like rambunctious schoolkids. Bald eagles soar in graceful arcs that delight the eye and feed the soul. And whales. When whales breech the bay’s surface, the spectacle is as profound and as spiritual as any on Earth.

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