Riding the tide

For adrenaline junkies, David Orkin describes Nova Scotia’s very own version of white-water rafting.

Written by David Orkin


Tidal bore rafting, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia by NSTATidal-bore rafting in the Bay of Fundy © Nova Scotia Tourism Agency

For those seeking soaking thrills and spills, Nova Scotia offers its own unique version of white-water rafting. Things usually start with a gentle boat trip on the Shubenacadie River on which you may see bald eagles. Near its mouth, rather than a rocky bottom, the river has several sandbars. As the incoming tide rushes up the river, big – but temporary – tidal rapid waves are created over each sandbar. These rapids dissipate after ten to 15 minutes.

Skilled and experienced guides are out to thrill, and pilot motorised inflatable (zodiac-type) boats to hit the waves head-on, lifting the craft and its occupants into the air and crashing them back onto the water. Apart from the splashing and rushing water, expect shrieks and screams of laughter from your fellow passengers. The boats ride the rapid and have time to turn and do it again two or three times at each sandbar.

The Bay of Fundy sees the world’s highest recorded tides. Twice daily, one hundred billion tonnes of seawater flows into the funnel-shaped bay, providing the perfect opportunity for the province’s most exciting water-based activity.

Some operators include a break for lunch before you return to the boats for a much calmer trip exploring upriver. Some also throw in the opportunity to slide over and through slippery, chocolate-brown mud as a (voluntary) free extra.

The rafting season runs from May to October: the moon and tides determine the expected intensity of the experience (the rafting companies’ websites have tide charts to help you choose your level). Each company offers three levels of trip depending on whether regular, high or extremely high tides are expected. During lower tides, more time is spent on nature observation.

Wear old, dark clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. Take a towel and extra set of clothes. Tidal-bore rafting is very popular, especially around the highest tides, so book early.

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