I recently planned a trip to Nova Scotia and one of my priorities was heading to the Cabot Trail. Without my own transportation I booked my place on the Great E.A.R.T.H Expeditions Cape Breton tour leaving from Halifax. Having left my backpacker days behind at least 15 years ago I was a bit hesitant at first to go on such a trip as it meant sharing a van with a bunch of strangers (most of whom I assumed would be quite young) and staying in a hostel (which I haven’t done in a long time) but this trip exceeded all my expectations.
Upon arriving at the pickup point I met my fellow travellers from around the world (Hong Kong, Scotland, Germany and Canada) who were all of a similar age but also like me solo travellers who were all keen to enjoy the wonders of the Cabot Trail. We were met by Ryan, our tour guide extraordinaire who on first meeting I knew was going to see that all of us got to have an amazing time. He was not just a driver but a historian, naturalist, environmentalist and extremely passionate about Nova Scotia and in particular Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail. Always ready to answer all of our questions (however silly they may be) and extremely friendly he is the guide that I have always wanted on a group tour (and I have done a lot of trips all around the world). Ryan’s dedication to his job and professionalism put him a class above the others.
His ability to buy food for the group for the trip (we only paid about $15 each for the duration of the trip) was budgeting to the extreme and he took us to some great locations that are off the beaten path. You were able to enjoy the scenery and the environment without the usual busloads of tourists thus making the experience more enjoyable and of course most relevant to me was the ability to take fantastic landscape photos (minus people!!). Cape Breton is an interesting mix of rivers, ocean views, beaches and mountains with a diverse range of flora and wildlife. This trip provided an opportunity to see a quick snapshot of everything the Cape has to offer.
The hike on the Skyline trail was a definite highlight particularly as it seemed Ryan had arranged for our encounters with 4 moose on the trail (a particular must see for me!). Another hike up Salty Mountain also provided an opportunity to see Bald Eagles in the wild. Other highlights included the stay at the Pleasant Bay hostel which was a great place to unwind at the end of the day with a crab dinner and bonfire on the beach as well as the opportunity to go whale watching and view pilot whales going on a feeding frenzy.
This tour provides a great mix of hiking, scenery, wildlife and as a small group tour the opportunity to forge lasting friendships with fellow travellers from all over the globe. Without Ryan’s expertise and personality none of this would have been possible.
I would highly recommend this trip and also other trips that Ryan takes (I also took the Peggy’s Cove trip from Halifax that Ryan runs and although the weather did not co-operate on the day, Ryan was equally as professional and the lunch he prepared was amazing even if I didn’t get a chance to taste one of his lobster rolls as the Americans on the trip ate them all!). If you want to experience the real Cape Breton then this is the tour for you ………………