||RACHEL NAUD, Contributor
As I spot the humpback whale cresting the waters of the Sagenuay Fjord, I freeze. Where do I aim the camera? At this once-in-a-lifetime view, or at my four-year-old son, Tristan, whose eyes are so wide they look ready to pop? After all, this moment has been months in the making.
Rachel with her son Tristan, on board the Croisieres 2001.
It all started with my son’s full-out obsession with a Planet Earth movie about whales. After practically wearing out the DVD, he moved on to watching endless YouTube videos of the majestic beauties breaching waters from across the globe, and most recently with a whale sticker book meant to keep him busy on the Via Rail ride from Toronto to Québec City.
“Are we going to see these whales in GoBec?” asked Tristan, pointing to a rather poor rendition of a beluga whale. “I hope so! I love beluga whales! They’re my favourite.”
Our whale-watching adventure led us to Tadoussac, Québec, a quaint tourist town located 214 kilometres east of Québec City, and one of the best spots for whale-watching in North America from May to October. Tadoussac is home to the warm waters of the 96 km (60 mile) Saguenay Fjord, which when it merges with the cold water of the St. Lawrence River creates a krill-rich feeding ground that draws everything from minke, fin and humpback whales to blues and belugas.
Whale-watching in Tadoussac. Photo by Rachel Naud
Whale-watchers have two choices — to either get up close and personal with the gentle giants by boarding 12-person Zodiaks, or to ride in bigger, steadier vessels capable of holding larger crowds.
But since Tristan doesn’t meet the age criteria (of eight years) to board the Zodiak, we ride the Croisieres 2001 for two hours of whale-watching and a one-hour tour of the Saguenay Fjord. We’re also treated with the boat’s underwater camera and two TV screens, which allow us to see what’s happening below the depths of the Fjord.
We snagged a seat on top, although we didn’t do much sitting throughout the entire excursion. As the enthusiastic guide bellowed, “minke 12 o’clock, humpback 3 o’clock and beluga 6 o’clock,” we navigated ourselves around the boat soaking in the surreal experience.
I watched Tristan’s eyes grow wide each time a fin emerged or a beluga lit up the dark waters with its white, engaging presence. I was overjoyed that for the first time he was not seeing these mammals on TV or captive in a tank, but swimming free, surrounded by nature as they were intended.
As the cruise winded down, Tristan picked out a stuffed beluga whale from the small on-board gift shop, and as we stepped off the boat, he looked up, smiled and said, “That was the best, Mom. Let’s do it again tomorrow.”
Tadoussac, Quebec. Photo by Rachel Naud
While you’re there
In Tadoussac, visit the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre (CIMM) and encounter the skeleton of a sperm whale over 13 metres (40 feet) long. Unique videos, sound recordings, games, a skeleton collection and exclusive film screenings provide the perfect complement to a whale-watching excursion.
Worth the drive
Travel 15 minutes out of Tadoussac to the Ferme 5 Etoiles family vacation site in Sacré-Coeur. Kids and parents alike will love the family-run farm, where they can get up close and pet everything from a baby moose to a wolf.
Pack a lunch and drive 25 minutes to the Cap-de-Bon-Desir Interpretation and Observation Centre in Les Bergeronnes. At this Parks Canada attraction, you can sit on the rocks and watch the whales swim by!
If you’re staying in Tadoussac, check out La Galouine Inn for a convenient, budget-friendly stay. Staying over in Québec City? Try the family-friendly Palace Royale.
Treat yourself to business class on Via Rail. The ride is relaxing and they serve you three-course meals while on-board. Plus with free Wi-Fi, the time speeds by.
Rachel Naud is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor specializing in lifestyle topics, from health to beauty to travel. She is a regular contributor to Postmedia News, the Calgary Herald and Canadian Real Estate magazine, and has also been published online at Chatelaine, Glow, Wish, Elevate and Oxygen.
Date Added: July 31, 2012 | Comments (2)
I am planning to go to Tadoussac in a few weeks, and I was hoping you can tell me how to get from toronto to Tadoussac…Ideally I don’t want to drive, I would prefer bus or something else. Any suggestions?
Comment by Bianca — September 26, 2012 @ 7:40 pm
We took the train from Toronto to Quebec City. Then we had to drive from Quebec City – it’s about four hours from there. I’m not sure if the train goes all the way to Tadoussac. Have a great trip!
Comment by Rachel — October 25, 2012 @ 2:42 pm