Summer 2013 has been an epic adventure. A few short weeks after our New York jolly we embarked on the trip of a life time to Canada. In the two weeks I was there I managed to see a sizeable chunk of the Eastern side of this vast North American country. I want to use my first Canadian blog post to tell you about a personal holiday highlight of mine which was Whale Watching. It is something I have been desperate to do since devouring the entire Blue Planet box-set while procrastinating from my studies at university. And where better to see these amazing creatures than in their natural habitat in the French Canadian province of Quebec.
On my flight out to Toronto I got chatting to a Canadian native who told me about a whale watching Mecca – a little village called Tadoussac. Approximately three hours drive north from Quebec City; Tadoussac sits at the confluence of the St Lawrence and the Saguenay rivers. Steeped in history, this tiny place may be a mere pinprick on a map but it is the oldest inhabited European settlement in Canada, and is a perfect location to spot some whales. So after a hectic few days in Quebec City we decided to follow the river north to see for ourselves.
As we boarded the ferry that took us across the Saguenay River, we left the hot summer sun behind us and entered the cool mist shrouded town with suspicious wonder. There is not much to do in the village however the traditional quaint buildings and the impressive Tadoussac Hotel and port area provide atmospheric surroundings. And there are plenty of places to grab some grub. We ate in the same restaurant on both nights of our stay (something I would never usually do!) as the food was absolutely delicious and somewhere to definitely recommend. From the cosy interior, excellent fresh pasta and wide variety of ales: ‘Cafe Boheme’ was somewhere we simply couldn’t go to just the once. Rated as the no.2 best restaurant in Tadoussac on TripAdvisor this buzzing restaurant was constantly busy – so expect a bit of a wait. But it will be worth it – we sampled salmon burgers, venison ravioli, spicy pizzas and fresh crab linguine and no single bite was disappointing (apart from the last one when you realised it was over). For more information or to have a gander at the menu please find the link here: http://www.lecafeboheme.com/fr/.
Anyway, we must move swiftly on from the food and on to the main reason we found ourselves in this remote riverside settlement – THE WHALES! I started to feel nervous on the approach down to the port as I had dragged my party this far north promising them whales and realised that actually there is NO guarantee that you will see any of these impressive mammals. Whale statues standing outside whale themed souvenir shops and Beluga themed BnB’s seemed to taunt me and I felt certain that our trip would be jinxed. There are different choices of boats to go out on including the slower more traditional river cruise boats. However we decided to head out on a super fast Zodiac boat tour. This way if no whales were to be found at least we would have a fun old time bouncing over the choppy waters on what was simply a rubber dinghy with an engine.
Bundled up in our huge waterproof jackets and trousers (handily provided by the tour company) and gripping onto our seats for dear life – we shot out of the bay like a bullet – bouncing heavily over the dark grey waters with teeth shattering power. And as luck would have it, within about one minute of the excursion we spotted a bright white mass gracefully gliding above the water before disappearing into the depths. It was our first sighting – a Beluga Whale! The boat cut its engine out as we all sat and stared in awe at this fascinating creature (well I was actually squealing and scrambling for my camera – but we won’t go into that!).
Further out of the bay we saw humpback whales a plenty. When their blowholes dramatically spurted out air indicating their location, our captain propelled the boat across the water so we could get a better look. Unfortunately there were no excitable whales leaping from the water but we got to see the humongous 30 tonne humpbacks swimming merrily along, occasionally showing off the impressive white undersides of their tail fins before diving down for an hour before their next breath is needed. We also saw groups of smaller (almost dolphin like) whales logging along the water and lots of extremely cute seals who seemed as curious about us as we were of them. It was incredible to see these animals in the wild and free.
I would recommend doing the fast boat ride if you don’t mind getting splashed; want a bit of adventure and to see the wildlife close up. I feel like you could miss out on the sights if you are on a slower, bigger boat. Or, if you are feeling really brave – hire a kayak. Whales eat Krill, not people. To see some lucky kayakers come face to face with a humpback whale in California, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf4HtVp1sh4
For more information on Tadoussac: www.tadoussac.com
For more information about the boat tours: http://www.otisexcursions.com/en/