Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec – whales and dolphins and seals, oh my!

It was first week of September and felt close to zero degree centigrade. However, we, a family of five (K2, our Hungarian Kuvasz was left back in the RV) were alerted to the cold ahead of time and were adequately covered up in layers. I thought the cruise ship we were aboard was sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. I realized later that we were still in the St. Lawrence River.

We thanked our stars for not boarding a Zodiac boat (see below). Those boats are surely meant for the young adults (children under 12 are not allowed) and those cut out for braving extreme chilly conditions while exposed to the elements.

And then there were oohs and ahs from the other passengers.

The dedicated crew member had picked up our first whale to see and had pointed out its bearings.

From then onward, it was non-stop sightings – Minke whales, fin wales, humpback whales, harbour porpoises, even harbour, harp and grey seals came to check us out at frequent intervals. Only the resident and much-loved Beluga whales were conspicuous by their absence.

Surprisingly, all this marine life exists in a river – a huge river that had appeared to be like sea to me, Atlantic Ocean to be precise, extremely cold and saline at this point – but a river nevertheless.

We were in the heart of Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park, established in 1998 and managed by Parks (Parcs) Canada. We were surprised to note that it is the third most visited national park of Canada after Banff and Jasper.

When the cold of the river water started getting better of us, we moved inside the covered restaurant. A quick coffee and snacks helped reenergize ourselves and we back on the deck again. The respite from cold and the layers we were wearing can be seen in the shot below.

In order to see the whales, we had reached the beautiful sea-side village of Tadoussac the previous afternoon. For reaching the village, we had boarded our 34 feet long RV on a ferry, which also carried several dozen cars and 18-wheelers, for crossing the Saguenay River peacefully flowing down from the North after passing through Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay.

Tadoussac Village

Tadoussac is located on two hills and the village itself is named after them. Its streets ascend and descend sharply. The homes and buildings are designed aesthetically. Floral and aesthetic designs of a wide variety greeted us all the time.

We reserved an RV campsite at ‘Camping Tadoussac’, which is almost the highest point of the village. In order to reach the beach and the marina from there, one has to descend on a sharp gradient. We decided to hike down to the Marina. We later realized that it was going to be very challenging return later in the day. 

We took the cruise ship and visited various destinations managed by Parks Canada to observe the ‘whales corridor’ – waters near Tadoussac where the whales visit.

Zak is showing the corridor on the map below.

Marine Environment Discovery Centre in Les Escoumins

Located about 30 km north of Tadoussac, this is managed by Parks Canada. This is known for interactive sessions between divers with cameras and the visitors who can see them underwater exploring the floor sitting in the comfort of a theatre with a giant screen.

In the absence of the diving show at the theatre, we walked through the permanent exhibit about the rich marine life and the marine environment that is attractive to the whales.

Like other tourists, we waited on the rocky outcrops here to observe whales. Yes, surprisingly, whales are observable from land as well.

Needless to mention, it was not a lucky day for us.

However, if you have young in the entourage, they, like the youngest member of our family, will find other activities to enjoy.

Cap-de-Bon-Desir Interpretation and Observation Centre

This destination is also managed by Parks Canada and is a part of the Marine Park. The Cap de Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre is also located along the Whale Route, where whales and seals sometimes come very close to the shore. We saw several visitors there for observing them. They had brought along picnic paraphernalia and binoculars.

We also tried our luck at looking for whales.

Did I say it was not a lucky day for us?

I was able to get a few shots of common eiders, a sea duck, in non-breeding plumage though.

There were signs that bears were active in the area.

There were beautiful buildings of historic nature here that were closed due to the COVID 19 situation. The Lighthouse looked particularly charming.

Courtesy of Quebec Getaways at https://www.quebecgetaways.com/

However, a friendly Park Ranger, after alerting us again to the presence of bears in the area, introduced us to touch me nots flowering plants (aka Impatiens capensis, the orange jewelweed, common jewelweed, spotted jewelweed, or orange balsam). Its seedpods, at even slightest of touch, burst open scattering the seeds. The younger members of our entourage found it fascinating.

Baie Sainte-Marguerite

The third site to observe Beluga whales is located 30 km from Tadoussac within Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay. We hiked here from the Park’s Visitor Centre to observe the resident population of whales, who swim up the Saguenay River for calving purpose and for spending some playful moments here.

All family members enjoyed the beautiful scene, which made us forget about the belugas. In the picture below, the young lady on the left was working for Parc Canada and was dedicated to researching beluga whales.

Beluga Discover Centre on site has permanent exhibit about beluga whales, especially the resident population.

Where to stay:

Due to the pandemic, we had decided to be RV bound. We parked at ‘Camping Tadoussac’ in Tadoussac. We found the RV campsite experience very good. 

We saw a number of Hotels, BnBs, inns, and motels in Tadoussac and the environs that seemed to provide all kinds of accommodations. Obviously, Hotel Tadoussac stood majestically at the Bay and could be seen even from far off in the St. Lawrence River.

4 thoughts on “Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec – whales and dolphins and seals, oh my!

  1. Great article!

    Some companies do allow children between the ages of 6 – 12 on the Zodiac and at a slightly discounted rate. But even if over 6 years of age, it really depends on your child… are they able to sit in one spot for 2+ hours, all bundled up in multiple layers?! If not, the bigger vessel is definitely better 🙂

    Also one ticket allows entry to all three lookouts of Parc Marin du Saguenay–Saint-Laurent (Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre; The Marine Environment Discovery Centre; and Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre). So plan to visit them all in one day!

    Like

  2. nice family visiting us in Quebec. beautiful pictures. have never been here, but will soon be thanks to this travelogue.

    Like

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