Rolling in the Deep

The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a maritime wildlife refuge three hours to the northeast of Québec City. 1200 square kilometers large, it harbors and protects the flora and fauna of the salty St. Lawrence River estuary. Among the marine species abundant there are half a dozen different types of whale that summer in the deep cold waters near Tadoussac.

Tourists, too, migrate there every summer to get a glimpse of these majestic creatures in their native habitat. Dressed in brightly colored and bulky high-performance water gear, they climb aboard agile Zodiac boats to get close – but not too close – to the marine mammals below. The outfitters that organize the trips provide not only the necessary equipment for the adventure, but also the information invaluable for understanding what the enthusiasts are seeing.

I was there several weeks ago with Les Écumeurs du Saint-Laurent. The Saturday afternoon my group had chosen was overcast and dramatic: the low clouds, the bursts of rain, and the distant lightning only added to our anticipation. Our guide, Cyril, charmed us with his expertise and good humor, reminding us that we were entering not a petting zoo, but rather a water wilderness that carried no guarantee of ready access to the whales.

But Cyril did not disappoint. He guided us to a spot just off Grandes Bergeronnes where we observed almost a dozen Minke whales as they came up for air on the choppy surface of the estuary. These whales – known as petits rorquals in French – are plenty big as far as I am concerned. Up to nine meters long, they are much bigger than the boat we were in. We learned to identify the particular arching movement that signals when the whale is diving deep. As an added bonus, we passed a lone gray seal going the other direction as we headed back to the dock. What a thrill!




6 thoughts on “Rolling in the Deep”

  1. Good Morning from Detroit-
    Love the recent posting about your whale watching tour. Looks like way more fun than a bus tour! Thanks for posting the tour information. It is something to keep in mind for my next visit to your beautiful province.

  2. Hello Neil,

    Another interesting experience to live in the area of Tadoussac is kayaking. I did it 2 years ago with one of my daughter and the guide also gave us many explanations about the marine life. Among other things, we also saw a whale which came not too far from us. Amazing moment of great nature… DL

  3. Dominique Bourqui

    Sous les cieux grisants de cette majestueuse Baie du Bon Désir, bassin naturel des mammifères géants du St Laurent que fréquentent les amateurs privilégiés de ce Paradis marin, le coloré bleu marin des habitants d’Essipit. Belle description Monsieur Neil, une invitation aux touristes passionnés de vivre une expérience iodée unique en compagnie de «« Mer et Monde Ecotours »» aux Escoumins ou tout simplement de la rive assis sur les plus vieux rochers du monde à Grande- Bergeronnes, Spectaculaire ! Je ne connais pas Cyril, mais il semble captivant dans cette description. Merci N.S.

  4. Looks cold, didn’t know whales came down the St Lawrence River. We haven’t done whale watching yet. Had a chance on our trip to Canada but to many other things to do, will need to remember to make time on our next trip.

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