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Having a whale of a Time !

9 juillet 2017

Whales, whales and even more whales! Imagine finding yourself face to face with the biggest marine mammal in the world, the blue whale, in its own habitat. Québec is one of the best places in the world for whale-watching and several companies offer observation cruises. The truly adventurous will opt for an up-close kayak excursion for a totally unforgettable experience!

Follow the Route des Baleines (Whale Route), a panoramic road handily marked with blue road signs pointing out the numerous observation spots on the water’s-edge, as well as the companies that offer spectacular whale-watching cruises and kayak excursions.

Off Percé and Gaspé, or in the unique ecological environment of the Saguenay-Saint-Laurent Marine Park, renowned as one of the best places in the world for marine mammal watching, whales and other marine mammals abound. Every year, 13 different species of marine mammal travel up-river between May and October to feed on the abundant fish and plankton. The small, white-as-snow Beluga is the only cetacean that is present year-round.

Whether you look out for them from the shore, set sail on a ship, in a Zodiac, or choose a kayak, a close encounter with these giants of the ocean is a magic, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On a Zodiac

In Tadoussac, in the Saguenay fjord, or in Gaspé, excursions in Zodiacs or other inflatables are led by captain-naturalists whose knowledge of the sea and of marine life guarantees you a rewarding and uplifting experience. There are numerous departures daily, though in the busy periods of July and August, it’s preferable to check availability and make a reservation ahead of time.

In order to reduce the impact of the observation activities on the marine mammals and to protect their environment, a minimal distance must be maintained, so sometimes your guide will not take you too close to the marine animals. The Zodiac, being fast and easy to manoeuvre, can follow a group of whales more easily, giving you a better chance to see them. But be aware that the speed of the Zodiacs can occasionally mean that the voyage might be a little bumpy.

On board a kayak

The more environmentally aware will certainly prefer to watch the whales from an ecological and environmentally friendly sea-kayak. And in our opinion, it’s the most exciting whale-watching experience! Making no noise, a sea-kayaking excursion means no stress to the whales and does not impair their feeding process.

Of course, your excursion could be cancelled due to bad weather or sea conditions. Your guide will keep you informed before departure. He or she will also give you all the necessary guidelines and safety procedures in preparation for your activity, as well as show you the basic paddling movements. You do need to be minimally fit to enjoy your sea-kayaking excursion. It is very safe and accessible to families.

Paddle with the belugas

SUP is the new trend in water sports. This rather minimalist board gives you a unique viewpoint. Standing on your board you have the feeling of literally walking on water next to the marine mammals whilst keeping an eye on the horizon.

BE AWARE that a minimal distance of 400 metres from the marine mammals must be maintained at all times, even if the belugas are very curious and stubborn!

From the shore

Watching the whales from the shore is accessible to all, cheap or even free depending on the observation site you choose. It can be a fabulous way to get to see these giants of the sea. Don’t forget your binoculars! You should be able to watch the ballet of the whales and clearly see their spout from the shore of Forillon National Park, Cap de Bon-Désir near Bergeronnes, Baie Ste-Marguerite, Baie Ste-Catherine or close to the marina in Tadoussac. Along the North shore alone, there are 25 accessible observation sites. All you have to do is scan the water and look for the spout rising from the water. Then you will be able to observe a back, a fin or even one jumping before it dives deeper for a few minutes to feed.

For more ideas, have a look at this very practical interactive map where you will find the various spots for observing marine mammals from shore.