The Québec maritime Blog
The Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is an ideal place to observe whales. From May to October, discovery and wonder await you in this marine protected area located at the confluence of the fresh waters of the Saguenay River and the salt waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary.
Created in 1998, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park showcases and protects an area of natural heritage teeming with over 2000 species, some of which are endangered such as belugas and blue whales. Surrounded by four tourist regions including Bas-Saint-Laurent and Côte-Nord, the marine park covers an area of 1245 km2 (480 sq. mi.) and offers opportunities to explore and learn on land and at sea during educational activities.
On and under the water…
If you want to see cetaceans, you can certainly observe them from the shore, but you must admit that it’s even more exciting to see them from the water. Tourists and adventure seekers can participate in a variety of activities to admire the show and feel small next to these giants of the sea, which include blue whales, the largest animals on the planet. (To give you an idea, they’re about the length of three school buses!)
You can watch these majestic animals from a sightseeing boat or Zodiac accompanied by experienced guides who are familiar with all the rules you must follow in the marine park. The most important one is to keep a certain distance from these marine mammals: at least 400 metres (1300 feet) from endangered species and 200 metres (650 feet) from the others.
These thrilling sea excursions are also an opportunity to discover breathtaking scenery, including the islands of the St. Lawrence and the impressive Saguenay Fjord, which was formed millions of years ago by glacial erosion. Whales are not the only creatures you’re likely to spot on these excursions: seals and many species of seabirds are also frequent visitors to the marine park.
There’s lots to see under the surface of the water as well: this is an amazing environment to discover while snorkelling or scuba diving, so make sure you make a stop at the Marine Environment Discovery Centre!
A lighthouse in Les Bergeronnes
To see whales, you can also visit the Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre. Located in the municipality of Les Bergeronnes, about 30 km (20 mi.) east of Tadoussac (which is the gateway to Côte-Nord), this centre is well worth the detour. Visit the light station, where the ghosts of the lightkeepers who once lived there with their families can still be felt. Next, you can walk to the shoreline along the Harbour Porpoise trail, which is 375 metres (1230 feet) long. Once you’re by the water, sit on the rocks and gaze out at the horizon, soaking up the panoramic view while keeping your eyes and ears open. It’s not uncommon to see whales or seals approach the shore to feed!
The Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre also offers various discovery activities. For example, you can explore the shoreline at low tide with a guide to discover the flora and fauna that lives in this ever-changing environment. Picnics are also a great way to make the most of this amazing site!
Scuba diving in Les Escoumins
Located in Les Escoumins, the Marine Environment Discovery Centre is another place worth stopping along the Whale Route. Here too, you can observe whales, seals and seabirds from the shore, surrounded by picture-perfect scenery that will add to this magical experience. You can also participate in discovery activities with experienced and knowledgeable interpreter guides, including the “St. Lawrence Live,” during which you’ll watch divers in real time and can communicate with them as they explore the seabed. (This activity is offered in French, but you’re welcome to ask questions in English.)
Scuba diving is a popular activity at the discovery centre for adventurers who want to explore the depths of the sea. Enthusiasts are sure to be delighted with their experience here as they discover the varied and colourful marine life found beneath the waves. In fact, this area is renowned throughout North America for the beauty of its underwater scenery. This activity is supervised by Québec Subaquatique.
If you’d like to discover the treasures of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park on land, on the water or under the water, there’s nothing left to do but to take the plunge and immerse yourself in this incredible place!