If Forillon is the tip of Quebec, Perce is for sure the tourist magnet. The charm of this Michelin three stars town is incomparable with all the other places and its proximity to the Bonaventure bird paradise is its major drawing card. In front of the harbor is the Rocher Perce, a rock that looks from afar like a huge horse drinking water that is, in a way, the symbol of the town. At low tide a causeway opens up and you can walk easily to the rock, a procession that is always full of people walking occasionally their dogs.
But the main attraction is for sure the island in front, Bonaventure. Boats are leaving each hour from a harbor full of travelers who want to discover the gannet colonies of the island. We boarded the first boat of the day that takes you around Roche Perce and places you on the shore of the island where for another fee you are able to enter the National Park. As usual when all the people on the boat landed the rangers asked for the English speaking tourists to go aside and out of a full large ship of eager birdwatchers there were only us who joined the “sort of” English speaking guide…
Bonaventure Island has several trails through bushes of raspberry and dense forests that carries you to the opposite shore where the large gannet colonies adorn the island ledges dropping into the sea. You see them when the boat surrounds the island, all perched on the top of the rock or in its creases, all flying in a cacophony of sounds and diving artistically after fish into the surf. The first sign of the approaching colony is the warble, followed by the pungent ammonia smell but the worst are the swarm of flies that surround the birds. A foray in the observation houses would wake up huge swarms that would land on the photographer and fly in front of the cameras for unexpected photos.
There are four colonies, all with gannets who are courting, fighting and protected their chicks in characteristic poses. Their deftness in diving into the water is in sheer contrast with the landing on soil where they funnily sort of crash land almost on top of the others.
The forth colony, and by far the largest, has in its middle a built up metal tower from whose top you are able to watch a sea of birds on the land and another one flying on top of it. It is an amazing spectacle of the nature. From there the path brings you back on the Chemin de Roi, skirting the coast to the only beach where curious seals pop out of the water and further visiting the houses of the families that once inhabited the islands going towards the harbor to catch the last boat going back to Perce.
If you have more energy, or another day to stay, you can climb the surrounding mountains, crevasses and caves. Mount Sainte Anne stands tall on top of the town and from its five “belvedere” points confers spectacular views over the town, Rocher Perce and the Bonaventure island. On top of the mountain is planted the statue of Sainte Anne, the patron of the fishermen. We climbed the mountain at sunset, after a full day hike in Bonaventure, and arrived, the last travelers, on the peak in admiring the quietude of the setting sun all the way to Cap Espoir and toward Baie de Chaleur. Except for some occasional breezy no sound could be heard and the paragliding flying peacefully over the landscape looked so natural. Eerie and atmospheric.