The Québec maritime Blog
I didn’t really believe my friend when he told me, just before I left for a weekend of camping and kayaking in Les Bergeronnes in Côte-Nord: “You’ll see, you’ll hear the whales from your tent!” Fall colours were spreading across the Manicouagan landscape and all along the Whale Route, punctuating the boreal forest with golden hues. At my Mer & Monde Écotours campsite overlooking Anse à la Cave, I couldn’t have been closer to the water, with my tent set up on a wooden platform right on the rocky shore. The first morning, at about 6 a.m., I was woken up by a strange noise, something like the fizzing sound of a pop bottle being opened: “Psscht!” And then again: “Pssssscht!” I quickly unzipped my tent, which was facing the water, just in time to see a whale emerge from the early morning mist, displaying its glossy back to me before disappearing into the dark waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary.
This type of surprise encounter is the perfect start to a day of fall camping in Les Bergeronnes. After a good breakfast, I set out for a hike along the rocks to Cap-de-Bon-Désir. The trail is not marked, but the smooth granite of the Canadian Shield is easy to walk on and all you need to do is follow the coastline. This is a walk through geological time: the passage of the glaciers has carved grooves, gouges and ridges into the rocky shore.
From May to October, Cap-de-Bon-Désir is one of the best sites to watch the St. Lawrence whales from the shore. Dominated by a lighthouse, facilities on the cape include an interpretation and observation centre managed by Parks Canada. The naturalists on site will be more than happy to help you identify the many marine mammals that put on an impressive show in the 300-metre-deep channel located at the foot of the cape. If you take the time to sit and contemplate the water, you will doubtlessly see fin whales and humpbacks, not to mention a multitude of seabirds.
To get as close as possible to the water, the ideal is to camp at a riverside site in Les Bergeronnes and participate in a guided sea kayaking excursion like the ones organized by Mer & Monde Écotours or Paradis Marin. (This means you don’t have to set off on a multi-day trip to see the whales up close!) If you’re a morning person, be sure not to miss the spectacular three-hour excursion at dawn. Later in the day, enjoy at least three hours or even a full day on the water to increase your chances of seeing some of the 13 species of whales found in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Be prepared for heart-pounding excitement if, as happened to me, a whale appears right in the path of your kayak! Luckily, a quick paddle stroke put me out of danger of climbing up onto its back. Seeing porpoises, belugas, minke whales, fin whales and humpbacks up close, without disturbing them with a motor, is a rare privilege, one that only the St. Lawrence can offer. And after a day of fresh air and an evening by the campfire, you can imagine how well you’ll sleep in your tent!
In addition to sea kayaking excursions, there are other types of whale-watching adventures available in the maritime regions of Québec. Read more about whale watching in our regions.