Whale watching, Gulf of St Lawrence
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Jan 23, 2013 11:26 AM Last Post By: ipswichbirder
Jan 17, 2013 9:50 AM
Whale watching, Gulf of St LawrenceHi all
I'm going to be mammal watching/birding around the Gulf of St Lawrence, Quebec in August, for three weeks. Whale watching is my main priority.
I know Tadoussac is the main spot but I've just read a trip report where their best blue whale sighting were from Ste Anne de Portneuf. Not sure if this was just luck, or whether it's a better spot for this species. I'm also likely to be in Gaspe, so I'm wondering how the trips there compare to Tadousaac. Any recommendations for the best companies to use or any other general thoughts would be much appreciated.
Looking at reports it seems that beluga is pretty easy, but blue whale seems a bit hit or miss, so it's the later species that I'm particularly interested in.
I'm also thinking on going for a Zodiac, but photography is a high priority and I’m bit concerned about whether I’ll be too busy wiping salt spray off my precious lens to get good photos. Any advice on this would also be welcome.
Jan 19, 2013 6:03 PM
1I've been on the whale watching trips from both Gaspe and Tadoussac. I think it was around mid September both times, and they were both about the same for the number of whales we saw. We didn't see any blue whales - it's pretty unusual to see them - but we saw beluga and killer whales. It was freezing cold and everyone felt very seasick on both trips, so be aware of this. People think that because the temperature when you're on land isn't too cold, it won't be too bad out on the boat, but it's a LOT colder and you get pretty wet if you're on a Zodiac. If you get at all seasick, make sure you take some kind of pills for it. I felt horrible throughout both trips and just wanted to be back on land, it totally spoilt it for me.
From Gaspe you're actually out at sea, whereas from Tadoussac you're in the river, but it's extremely wide at that point so it feels more like being in the sea.
Hope that helps, enjoy whichever you choose to do!
Jan 21, 2013 11:11 AM
2There are plastic "sleeves" or protectors designed so you can shoot photographs through the plastic without soaking your camera. I'd recommend practicing with them first instead of waiting until you're actually out on the water. Also get a long strap for the camera and use it...you don't want to be the passenger who dropped their camera in the water.
On a Zodiac, wear layered clothing ("onion style") with the outer layer being waterproof. That means waterproof shoes/boots, pants, and jacket. Go for a long walk in a cold rain wearing the stuff to make sure it's waterproof and keeps you warm. Remember, it's not just wet and windy weather, but also a long period of sitting in the wet and wind with no way to move around and warm up.
Jan 21, 2013 9:28 PM
3Best observations I've made were from the shore. :-) And once I was on a Zodiac watching a Minke whale feeding and we could talk (well, shout) to people on shore. The closest Minke whale I've seen in Tadoussac was on the Tadoussac ferry, while we were still docked. The closest I've seen anywhere was at Quarry island (Mingan archipelago). I was on a little wooden dock and the whale swan partly underneath. A good spot to watch fom the shore is Cap Bon-Désir just east of Tadoussac. Whales follow the tide along the shore.
I haven't been very lucky with tours. Mostly Fin whales, which aren't the most spectacular. Minke are more entertaining when feeding. Blue whales aren't as common (saw one in the distance from shore) and apparently, Escoumins would be a better starting point for those. I don't see why you'd have to go to Ste-Anne-de-Portneuf.
Never been on a whale tour in Gaspé. I've seen some from the shore and on the Bonaventure island tour. Gaspésie has more wildlife in general though. Bonaventure island has the 2nd largest Northern Gannet colony and you can walk up close enough to get stabbed. There may be seals resting on the rocks. Forillon park has quite a bit of avian, marine and land fauna.
The Mingan region is good but it's a looong way. The atmosphere is much nicer than Tadoussac. There's a research center there and they take people along. I went on a 12.5 hour zodiac trip with them. It's not a tour. They do their thing and you follow them. That means they could pass some on some whales. We spent most of the day looking for... I don't know. It was pretty cool and I'd do it again. http://www.rorqual.com/
I'm not crazy about Tadoussac but if you're going to Gaspé, you can drive there and ferry across in Les Escoumins or Forestville so by all means, go. If you decide to cross the St-Lawrence in Baie-Comeau, continue to Godbout instead. It's the same boat the drive between the two towns is nice.
Dress warm but any zodiac operator should provide a waterproof outershell, use your camera strap, try to find a spot on the boat where you can go from one side to another. I got my gear really wet on the long tour, mostly from splash when moving (the waves were scary high) and it's impossible to photograph in those conditions anyway.
Jan 23, 2013 11:26 AM
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