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Best seats in the house! Watching belugas from land in Quebec

I’m delighted to introduce our fourth guest blog from supporter, Oliver Dirr, who has been travelling round the world, watching whales and sharing his best experiences with us! Read on for his account of watching belugas from land in Quebec.

Quebec is the most southerly vantage point in the world for viewing arctic beluga whales. In the beautiful Saguenay fjord, you can even observe them from land: a wonderful but slightly surreal experience!

Text & photos: Oliver Dirr / whaletrips.org


Our plan was to take the ‘Whale Route’, a 1,700 kilometres long coastal trip with lots of great whale watching opportunities on the way. The Saint Lawrence is one of the world’s richest waters in terms of whale sightings: belugas, blue whales, fin whales, minke whales and humpback whales can be seen here regularly – and in recent years, even the super-rare northern right whales have made an appearance. There’s quite a lot going on here!


Unfortunately, plenty of whales also means an overload of whale watching companies, especially around Tadoussac and Bergeronnes. We’ve seen whales being accompanied by up to eight (!) boats, which rushed from whale to whale, as if in the zoo. The top priority for passengers on board seemed only to be achieving the perfect fluke shot.

So, after the first few days we sat down together and discussed whether we should skip this whole whale watching thing for a while, at least whilst in Quebec. It was always clear that this would happen to us at some point – and now, unfortunately, the time had come: we had experienced our first really bad whale watching tours.

After this salutary experience, we decided to opt instead for some shore-based whale watching – and fortunately, the Whale Route is just perfect for this, providing some great land based whale watching opportunities. Honestly, I really hadn’t a clue how exciting and, yes, thrilling, it could be to sit on a couple of rocks all day long, doing nothing but waiting to see what might happen, as we did one afternoon at the Baie de Sainte Marguerite.


Somebody had told us that there was a pretty good chance of seeing belugas around this bay during summer. We were told that, on average, these whales would swim past every other day – and they would often stay for several hours. So, on a nice sunny day, we took a small hike along the beautiful Saguenay fjord and after arriving at the small lookout with some really good info boards, it was just: find a nice place on the rocks, sit down, wait and watch.

So, we waited and watched, probably for two or three hours, enjoying a light summer breeze, twenty degrees, the perfect day-on-the-beach-feeling. Without the whales, though. After a while, we adjusted to the idea that we’d be unlucky today. Then, we spotted something glistening on the horizon: a white back! Then a second, a third! And then it happened – a few seconds later, the bay was full of belugas.


They stayed for several hours, just playing around. Sometimes they came quite close to the shore, sometimes they stayed a hundred metres or even further away. But you could hear them all the time, even above the water: splashing, squeaking, whistling, singing – belugas sure know how to make some funny noises! It felt quite surreal, just sitting on the rocks, alongside a good twenty other whale watchers: all inspired, all blessed, all happy.

That, of course, is exactly the kind of atmosphere that is created on a good whale watching trip. and this is exactly the point where a good guide would tell us more about the whales the overall marine environment and what can be done to protect them better, even when you’re back home, in your everyday life. This is the spirit you should take home!

Sadly, the guides on the tours we took around Tadoussac and Bergeronnes completely missed this chance. How good, therefore, that you don’t need to be on a boat in order to have a really great and memorable whale watching experience. All you need is some rocks and a little patience.


Over the next few weeks, we did some more land-based whale watching on the Whale Route. After to the Baie de Sainte Marguerite, our favourites were the Pointe de l’Islet in Tadoussac and the Cap de Bon Desir north of Bergeronnes. This area even had some land-based guides there who really made a lot of effort, especially with the kids, to enthusiastically explain all you need to know about the whales of the Saint Lawrence.

And that, of course, is the way it should be!

***

Our visit to Quebec was part of a longer whale trip around the world. To read the full story and find more information about Quebec, please have a look here: On the whale route (https://whaletrips.org/en/blog/whaletrip-whale-route-quebec/)

ABOUT US & WHALETRIPS. ORG

Our plan was to spend a couple of months meeting some whales and meanwhile, travelling west until we got back home. We’ve built a website about our trip, whaletrips.org, which features our favourite whales, some of the most beautiful places to see them and shares what we’ve learned about whales and whale watching. We’re happy to post some stories of our trip here on whales.org

If you’ve been inspired by Oliver’s blog and are considering taking a whale watching holiday, please check out WDC partners Off the Map Travel www.offthemaptravel.co.uk