The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park (Parc Marin du Saguenay-Saint Lawrence) is a national park in Québec, Canada, made up entirely of a marine environment. It encompasses much of the Saint Lawrence Estuary from Port-au-Persil, 50 miles north, to Les Escoumins and also the Saguenay Fjord.
Whales come to this area every year from about May until October. According to the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park website, the “encounter between the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay Fjord produces exceptional oceanographic phenomena, such as cold waters welling up to the surface, that foster biological diversity”. In short, this means lots of food for whales.
Humpback, Minke, Finback, and Blue Whales, the largest animal on the planet, come to the marine park annually. White Beluga Whales inhabit the confluence of the Saguenay Fjord and St. Lawrence Estuary all year. There’s also a good chance you might see seals lounging on a rock or dolphins swimming beside your boat in late summer.
On my first trip to the Saguenay Fjord area I was lucky enough to see a few whales from land at Baie-Sainte-Catherine. On my second trip we decided to take a whale watching cruise and see if we could get a little closer to the huge mammals. We took a cruise from Saint-Siméon, where there is also a ferry across the St. Lawrence, located about two hours northeast from Québec City. They offered whale watching cruises on an enclosed boat or a zodiac. It was somewhat chilly and windy, even though it was the end of June, so we opted for the comfort of the Explorathor.
The boat we took is mostly enclosed in glass and seats about 50 people. The river and it’s forested and rocky cliffs provide plenty of scenery to look at during the 40 minute trip to the Saguenay Fjord area, where most of the whales are. You can also learn on the way. There are TV’s onboard that run a documentary about the whales and the Saguenay-Saint Lawrence Marine Park.
When our boat arrived at the spot where the Fjord meets the Saint Lawrence, it wasn’t long before we heard the crew calling out “12 o’clock, 1 o’clock”, to let us know where to spot the whales. We spotted and followed fins, wakes, and whales for about an hour and a half before starting our return trip to Saint-Siméon. We saw lots of whales, mostly Minke, and dolphins. Even though I was hoping to see a Humpback Whale breaching, or something spectacular, I had a really good time taking in the scenery, relaxing, and watching the “small” (about 25 ft. long) whales.
The whale watching cruises (croisières aux baleines) in Saint-Siméon are just one of them in the area. Whale watching boats also cruise from Tadoussac, Baie-Ste-Catherine, and Rivière-du-Loup.