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Bonaventure Island

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Author: 
Matthew Farfan

Bonaventure island, with Percé Rock in the distance. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Bonaventure Island is, without a doubt, one of the gems of the Gaspé Penninsula. The island, which is a little over four square kilometres in area, and which lies off the Gaspé coast about five kilometres from the town of Percé, within sight of Percé Rock, was first sighted by Jacques Cartier in 1534.

The island has an interesting history. It served as a seasonal fishing outpost for years during the French period. A number of early wood-frame buildings survive, including the picturesque Le Boutillier House.

Northern gannet colony. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Bonaventure is even more famous as the site of one of the world’s most important (and accessible) sea bird colonies. Approximately 300,000 seabirds nest here, including razor-billed auks, gulls, kittiwakes, murres, cormorants and Arctic puffins.

In all, 223 different species have been recorded as visiting, migrating to, or living on the island. The largest single group are the over 100,000 northern gannets that call the island home, the second largest colony of this species in the world. The fish that thrive in the shallow, nutrient-rich waters surrounding the island provide these birds with their sustenance.

Along the trails. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)In 1919, the federal government designated Bonaventure Island as a bird sanctuary. In 1971, the province of Quebec acquired the island. In 1985, it, along with nearby Percé Rock, were christened Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé (Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park).

Overlooking the cliffs. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)Bonaventure Island is accessible to the public, with boats leaving regularly from Percé. Visitors may use the trails that crisscross the lush forests that blanket much of the island. The gannet colonies are the main attraction, and both self-guided and guided tours are available. Interpretive panels provide background.

An observation tower, located near the gannet colony, provides an excellent vantage point from which to scan the ocean for whales.

For visitors interested in the island’s history, a guided tour of the recently restored Le Boutillier House will allow them to relive the life of an islander, fisherman, farmer, or manager of the Jersey fishing company, Le Boutillier Brothers.