Whale Watching in Canada
By Candyce H. Stapen
Watching one of the earth’s largest creatures burst from the water in front of you and plunge back into the deep is an experience you will likely remember forever. With more than 30 species of whales living in or traveling through Canadian waters, Canada offers prime whale-watching terrain.
Whales can be sighted in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. But for some easy close-ups of these giant marine mammals swimming and breaching, many experts suggest Tadoussac, a two-to-three hour drive northeast of Québec City. To see one of the world’s largest concentrations of humpback whales, head to Newfoundland.
What makes Tadoussac a find? Seven different species of whales inhabit the nearby waters. Also, you’re likely to catch sight of a whale within ten minutes of getting onto a boat instead of enduring an hour or longer of boat ride in potentially rough waters as in other whale watching regions. In addition, the St. Lawrence River is relatively calm with no ocean swells.
What attracts whales to Tadoussac? The icy salt water carried up the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic Ocean meets the warm fresh water flowing out of the Saguenay fjord. As the two currents mix, they give rise to a rich harvest of plankton, krill and capelin that draws the marine behemoths each summer and fall. The Saguenay-St. Laurence Marine Park encompasses both the fjord and the St. Lawrence estuary.
The whales arrive on a staggered schedule between May and October. In August you may be lucky enough to spot the largest animal on earth—the rare blue whale. These behemoths of the deep weigh 140 tons and reach 98-feet in length. The blue whales remain in the area through October or November.
Also from May to November, look for belugas, finback whales, minkes and humpbacks. White whales reproduce and live in the St. Lawrence year-round. Along the way watch for gray seals and harbor porpoises.
Off Newfoundland’s coast twenty-two species of whales can be spotted, including fin, sperm, minke and humpback. Cape Spear, North America’s easternmost point, boasts the world’s largest concentration of humpback whales.
Both Tadoussac and Newfoundland offer whale watching trips in large boats. But if you want to up the adventure by getting close enough to smell the fishy scent from a whale’s blow hole spray, then in Tadoussac choose a trip in a motorized Zodiac craft and in Newfoundland, get within a paddle’s length of these majestic creatures on a guided kayak trip.