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Frequently Asked Questions

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How much does it cost to fly to Sable Island? For the 2017 visitor season, the cost of a flight to Sable Island, same-day return (regardless of the number of people on board), is $5500.00 CAD plus $71.00 Halifax airport fees plus 15% provincial sales tax (HST), for a total of $6406.65. Parks Canada also charges a flight support fee of $500.00 CAD, inc HST (note that this fee is not an entrance fee, but is meant to help defray the cost of providing vehicle support, and is therefore not waived by having the Free 2017 Discovery Pass).

Can I buy just a single seat on a flight? We frequently receive requests from people wishing to purchase tickets on a flight, however, under the conditions of our Operating Certificate, we are not legally allowed to sell individual seats - the aircraft must be chartered in its entirety. Any sharing of costs by individuals must be privately arranged amongst the group (check out the Facebook group Sable Island Aircraft Charter for a chance to find other individuals interested in sharing charter costs). Sable Aviation will issue a single bill for the flight and a single payment is required.

What forms of payment do you accept? Payment may be made by certified cheque, money order, traveller's cheques, or cash (unfortunately, we cannot accept non-certified cheques). We also now accept Visa, Mastercard or American Express credit cards, however, a $250.00 administrative fee will apply. All payments must be in Canadian funds. Parks Canada will bill separately for their flight support fee.

Is there a cancellation fee if the flight doesn't happen? No, you only pay for the flight if the airplane gets airborne. If the flight is cancelled prior to departure, you are not charged (note that this does not apply to groups who do not show up for their bookings without calling). Once the flight becomes airborne, however, you are liable for the cost of the trip (or the portion flown).

How far in advance do I pay for my flight? Because many flights are postponed or cancelled due to weather, we prefer to not have payment prior to the day of the flight, however, once the flight has been given the go-ahead for weather and beach conditions, payment must be made in full prior to departing.

BN-2A Britten Norman Islander

Flight Information

How many people can the aircraft carry? For the best chance of success (see question about flight delays), we recommend planning for no more than 5 passengers on a flight. Although the aircraft is capable of carrying 7 passengers, if there are any more than 5 on the flight it must be conducted entirely in good weather during daylight hours, due to Transport Canada regulations. This means that poor weather in the forecast, regardless of the actual conditions, will preclude a flight with 6 or 7 people. Even if the weather cooperates, the aircraft must depart from Sable early enough to land in Halifax well before dark (i.e. your day will be cut short by several hours). Since it is not that unusual for Halifax to have poor weather, but Sable to be beautiful and sunny, if you still want a group of 6 or 7 people, you should discuss beforehand what your Plan B will be. If the weather at Halifax or enroute is forecast to be poor but the weather at Sable is acceptable - will you cancel/reschedule the trip or leave a couple of people behind?

Is there a total weight limit for the flight? Yes, the aircraft can carry no more than 1200 lb combined weight of people and baggage if operated with two pilots, or 1400 lbs if operated single-pilot. This limit is a legal restriction, set by the aircraft manufacturer for safety reasons. While most flights can be operated single pilot, there will be occasions when aircraft configuration, scheduling, or duty day limits will require two pilot operations and the lower 1200 lb limit.

When do we depart from Halifax? Departure from Halifax cannot occur until we hear from the Operations Coordinator on Sable that there is a safe area to land on the beach. This could be as early as 8 a.m., but is often later if the most recently used landing area is not suitable that day. In that case, he/she must search the entire 10 km length of the landing beach for an area that will meet the requirements for a safe runway. Occasionally, there may be no suitable area at all, and the flight will have to be rescheduled for another day.

How long can we stay on the island? The length of time that visitors are allowed to stay is primarily based on time of sunset, other station operations scheduled for that day, and to a lesser extent, changes in weather. While Parks Canada has the final word on how long a group may stay on the island, departure must occur prior to dark (i.e. not long after sunset), or several hours earlier if more than 5 passengers are carried. Also, if unforeseen weather deteriorations occur in Halifax, enroute, or on the island, the pilot may require an early departure to ensure the safety of the flight. While we will do everything in our power to avoid cutting your day short, weather in the Maritimes can change quickly, and the pilot's decision will always err towards the side of caution when it comes to flight safety.

How long will it take to fly to Sable? In normal wind conditions (i.e. tailwind on the trip out, headwind on the return), the trip to Sable takes about 1:10, with a return time of approximately 1:40.

Are flights delayed very often? Unfortunately, yes - flights to Sable are often delayed by a few days due to poor weather or unfavorable beach conditions. Flight delays of even a few weeks are not uncommon, and on one or two occasions in late fall/early winter, flights have been delayed for months. The best way to eventually make it out to the island is to have one or more consecutive back-up dates. Patience is an absolute necessity when travelling to Sable Island.

What time of the year tends to have the least number of delays? Although the weather is unpredictable in this area of the world, historically, mid to late August until the middle or end of September seems to provide the best rate of success for visits. Spring and early summer are known locally as "fog season", while later in the fall is hurricane season. In the winter, in-flight icing conditions will often delay or cancel flights.

Horses on parade

Trip Details
What should I wear for my day on Sable Island? Although you may want clothes for sunny weather, even in summer it can often turn cool on the island, so be sure and take a windbreaker and warm sweater. Comfortable footwear is essential, as you will most likely be walking many miles in soft sand. Due to debris hidden in the sand, flip-flops and similar footwear are not recommended. For sunny summer days, along with your sunglasses, be certain to wear a hat that will provide adequate sun protection - there are no trees, therefore no shade, on Sable Island. In late fall and early spring, your clothes will need to be warmer than you might expect - the wind and high humidity make Sable weather feel cooler than the numbers would seem to indicate. Conditions in winter can be quite harsh, with strong winds blowing not only snow, but also sand and freezing spray around - warm clothing, including gloves and a hat, are absolute necessities.

What should I take with me on my day trip? Obviously a camera is a must-have, but also don't forget to pack a hearty lunch - there is nothing like walking in soft sand to build up a good appetite! Visitors have access to a fully equipped kitchen, including a microwave, should you feel inclined to heat your lunch. In addition to food, you may want to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer, tissues, and sunscreen.

Can I drink the water on Sable or should I bring my own? Sable Station uses treated well water, so there is no need to bring drinking water out to the island, however, you should bring along a small bottle to fill with water after you have arrived, to carry with you for hiking in the hot sun.

Is there cell phone coverage on the island? There is no cell coverage on Sable Island, so leave your smartphone behind and enjoy the peace of this beautiful location.

Are there any vehicles, such as ATVs, available to rent so I can tour around the island? No, due to the fragile nature of the landscape and the prohibitively high cost of maintaining vehicles in such a harsh environment, there are no vehicles of any sort available for rent. Also, since there are only two Parks Canada personnel tending to the operational requirements of the entire station, they are not available to lead/drive tour groups around.

Can I stay overnight on Sable Island? At present, other than certain groups such as researchers, documentary film crews, etc that have been granted special permission, no overnight stays are allowed.

Grey seals