I have always wanted to take a whale watching trip on a boat. When I knew we could do it here in Quebec, we decided to go to Saguenay, a marine protected area that includes part of the St. Lawrence Estuary, La Malbaie aux Escoumins, and part of the Saguenay Fjord. The mission of the Marine Park is to preserve sea life while promoting scientific research and educational and recreational activities: each living organism in the park is protected from the seabed to the surface of the water. The Marine Park is an important habitat for the St. Lawrence beluga, whales and seals.
When we visited, the observation season was almost at the end: the cruises finish their expeditions in mid-October, when the whales will migrate to other points of the river to follow the food. The marine park is 500 km from Montreal, but it is not very easy to get here, especially if you do not have a car. We did it on a long weekend, by train and bus (see our bus ride through the Charlevoix region), but this area is well worth a ten-day tour by car.
Generally, local travel agencies offer two types of cruises for whale watching: on a covered ship or on a zodiac boat. The first is a large ship that offers a slow and comfortable navigation. The other one is a smaller boat, which travels at high speed and allows you to approach the whales from a shorter distance. We chose the zodiac. The day was wonderful, but it was cold. The temperature was 17 degrees, but on the river it is 10 degrees lower. The speed of the boat and the water splashes did the rest. The cruise line provided some more clothes for us, but as a rule of thumb, bring your own water-resistant and warm clothes.
The trip on the boat was fun… we saw a beluga, several whales at a distance and incredible scenery between Baie-Sainte-Catherine and the Saguenay River near Tadoussac.
If you’re up for some adventure, we highly recommend a zodiac cruise. Book in advance and enjoy the ride!