The Saguenay-St. Laurence Marine Park, Tadoussac, Canada, offers exciting whale watching within a two to three-hour drive of Québec City. Seven different species of whales inhabit the waters and, unlike other whale watching trips, you can forget about enduring an often tedious and rough hour plus boat ride before you reach whale territory. Located on the St. Lawrence River, the marine park encompasses both the fjord and the St. Lawrence estuary. In this region, the icy salt water carried up the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic Ocean meets the warm fresh water flowing out of the Saguenay fjord. As the two currents mix, they give rise to a rich harvest of plankton, krill, and capelin that draws the marine behemoths on a staggered schedule between May and October.
From August through October or November, you might catch sight of a blue whale – the largest animal on earth, weighing 140 tons and reaching 98-feet in length.
From May to November, look for finback whales, minke whales, and humpbacks. Belugas reproduce and live in the St. Lawrence year-round. You’re also likely to see gray seals and harbor porpoises.
From Tadoussac, companies offer whale watching trips in large boats as well as in motorized Zodiacs. The Zodiacs, much smaller than the boats, allow you to be at sea level instead of looking down at the whales. As a result, you feel closer to the animals. Croisières AML as well as other companies offer both big boat and Zodiac tours.
Interpretive Centers feature exhibits and activities in summer. From the end of June to the end of the third week in August, the park hosts a hands-on activity targeted for kids. As part of “We’re off to Discover Marine Animals!”, budding marine biologists get to touch sea cucumbers and starfish as well as “race” sea urchins. Certified divers can go on a guided scuba tour of the St. Lawrence River. Check the park’s schedule for days and times.
At Cap de Bon-Désir Interpretation Centre, guides lead informative walks along the shoreline. With luck, you might see several whales, including the threatened St. Lawrence beluga. The Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre offers exhibits and films as well as guided scuba diving. The Pointe-Noire Interpretation Center is also a good place to sight whales as well as marine birds.
Combining a visit to Québec City and to Tadoussac provides an engaging mix of city and country sights in Canada.