by Stephen Johnson
photos and video courtesy of Bayou Outaouais
Earlier this year, I came across a video on a local tourism website for an airboat tour that looked amazing. I was sure it was stock footage from the Louisiana bayou or the Florida Everglades. Instead, I was surprised to learn it was from a nature reserve in Gatineau, Quebec with a company aptly named.
After viewing the video, it was definitely on our family to-do list. We met our guide Marco and his wife Sonia at a protected nature reserve, Baie McLaurin. The reserve is located within the city of Gatineau and close to the main highway. Once we were on the water, it felt like we were in another world.
I had never been in an airboat and was amazed by how effortlessly it glided along the water. Marco immediately made us feel at ease and provided us with interesting information about the site. Our first stop was to see a viewing tower and floating bridge. We did not have time to explore as it was already early evening but would be worth a return trip.
The real fun started once we started to hit the wetlands area with reeds and small cattails. I can imagine that it is an area that can only be accessed by airboat as other boats would get tangled and the water depth would not be high enough. Our son, David, and my wife, Sandy, were ready to get nature shots with their cameras. They were soon rewarded with a flock of geese and a great blue heron flying overhead.
The next part of the trip was simply amazing. We passed into an inlet that was only accessible by airboat. Marco said to be ready as there was a high probability of seeing wildlife. Almost on cue, an osprey flew overhead acting as a guide leading us further down the inlet. The action was not only in the air, Marco slowed down the boat and we saw a few beavers going about their evening routine. They seemed completely ambivalent about our presence. While I was focused on the beavers, David and Sandy saw a large catfish swimming beside our boat.
While all of our nature viewing had been very cool, I was not ready for our next discovery. I have only seen a bald eagle once in the wild. It was in the Bruce Peninsula, only a short seven hour drive from Ottawa! Marco tapped us on the back and pointed up to the trees. Before us was a bald eagle seeming to survey the landscape around him. David, Sandy and I were all speechless. Marco cut the engine and we just watched in awe. After a few minutes, the eagle took flight. We felt privileged to have seen one of nature’s most magnificent spectacles.
We almost done our trip and finished off with Marco cutting the boat’s engine again to let us take in the call of the birds and sounds of nature. It was the perfect way to end a magical experience.
Marco and Sonia were both wonderful and knowledgeable guides. Marco is bilingual and is happy to provide service in French and English. For more information and to book an excursion on Bayou Outaouais, visit www.quoifaireottawagatineau.com
Check out the video too: