Feeling a bit like a negligent Quebecer I decided that it was about time I did some whale watching in my own province. I have gone whale watching in Cape Cod, Massachusetts as well as in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Both were fantastic experiences as it is not too often that you get to get that close to the giants of the sea. With that in mind myself and couple of co-workers packed ourselves into a couple of cars and made the 6 hour drive to Baie Ste. Catherine with the aim of taking a whale watching cruise from nearby Tadoussac.
To break up the drive we stopped in Baie- Saint-Paul. This is a picturesque small town located right after Quebec City (about 3 hours from Montreal). We ate lunch there in a cute part of town filled with artisanal shops and restaurants. After another 3 hours (214 kms east of Quebec City) of driving we arrived in Baie Ste. Catherine. We had strategically picked our motel to be located right across the street from where we could buy our tickets for the whale watching excursion and catch the shuttle to Tadoussac. There are several hotels/motels in the area and even more in Tadoussac itself.
Once you get to the Charlevoix region there are plenty of options along the St. Laurence River to do a whale watching excursion. After some examination we decided to use the Crosières Dufour outfit. They offer several options in regards to excursions and the times of their trips suited our purposes. My group selected the Crosières Dufour outfit. If you are looking to go out in Tadoussac, they offer a Whale Watching Safari ($69 plus taxes) and a Thrill-Seeking Cruise ($74 plus taxes).
The Whale Watching Safari takes place on the Monohull Famille Dufour. A large boat it holds almost 600 people. It features a bar, is wheelchair accessible and during the 3 hour excursion you will be treated to a fully bilingual (our guide even said some things in Spanish) description of what you are seeing. I found this description really informative and really helped with the spotting of the whales and seals. Another plus of the big boat is that you can go inside at times to get out of the wind.
A second option is the Whale Watching Safari in which you ride on a much smaller zodiac that carries up to 48 people. With the smaller craft you have to wear a wetsuit of sorts during the 3 hour excursion but it affords you the opportunity of getting up closer to the whales and seals. The choice is up to you as each vessel offers its own advantages.
In the waters where the Saguenay Fjord meets the St. Lawrence River there are 13 species that you can see. There are minke, beluga (the white ones), humpback, fin (second largest), blues (the largest of the breed), and seals. Belugas are particular to this area and the only whales that stay here all year round as the other breeds migrate south to the warmer waters in the winter months. Like most Quebecers belugas have adapted to the cold of the province. This particular place is a great place to see whales as it is where the warm Saguenay meets the cold St. Lawrence and krill (food for whales) is plentiful.
Now remember, these are wild animals and they and their behaviour are unpredictable. There are no guarantees that you will see whales, etc. during your excursion, but it would be some awful luck not to as all the different companies work together and communicate when they see a whale.
If you have not gone whale watching I definitely recommend it. Seeing these great creatures for the first time live is something amazing. Your eyes are sure to widen at the sight of them.
-Dates: End of May until the middle of October each year