Curious about things that the locals fancy? The Be Local series features articles written by local tourism afficionados who share with you their passion for the region. This week, local expert Korynn Foster reveals her secrets about the giants of the St. Lawrence River.
When I was young, I was among the lucky few to grow up in a village called Saint-Siméon, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. I always appreciated the inner calm that this long, quiet river brought me. One of the many advantages of growing up in Saint-Siméon is, undoubtedly, the opportunity to engage in whale watching throughout the summer. These large mammals, which travel thousands of kilometers to feed in the St. Lawrence estuary, are quite simply majestic! Fortunately, there are a number of attractions and activities in the region that are designed to help you spot these giants of the St. Lawrence. After reading this article, I am sure that you’ll want to meet them for yourselves!
My favorite way to ensure a successful whale watching outing is to head right out to the middle of the river. To get there, climb aboard one of the ships of Croisières AML! For 50 years now, Croisières AML has been offering the opportunity to observe whales in their natural aquatic habitat. The AML team proposes a number of different excursions: those who prefer comfort will enjoy a seat on the AML Grand Fleuve, while those seeking thrills and adventure will want to board a zodiac. Whatever your choice, you won’t be disappointed.
The intersection of the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay fjords creates an immense natural feeding pool, the perfect location for these cetaceans in search of food. On the menu: krill, plankton, crustaceans, and even certain kinds of fish. Depending on the species, a whale can eat anywhere from a hundred kilos to four tons of krill per day. Many people will ask: are we more likely to see a whale at some specific time of day? The answer is no: you can head out onto the water at any time of the day; it will not have any influence on your chances of spotting the whales. Contrary to popular belief, whales are not fish: they are mammals; therefore, they cannot breathe underwater. After a few minutes underwater, they need to return to the surface to breathe, and this is as true in the morning as it is in the afternoon or evening.
The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of the best places in the world to observe marine mammals since up to thirteen species can be found in its waters. The minke whale loves to surprise observers by making short, successive appearances, while the fin whale’s powerful breath can be seen and heard by everyone nearby when it comes out of the water! The humpback whale never ceases to amaze: sometimes it performs spectacular feats as it surges up from the water, and it always displays its magnificent tail when diving. Beluga whales have made the St. Lawrence River their home, and it is not uncommon to see them. With a little luck, one can also observe blue whales, right whales, sperm whales, and a number of other species that come to visit us. During an excursion, you may find that you are not the only one doing the watching; don’t be surprised if several grey heads appear at the surface of the water to observe you. In addition to whales, the harbor seal, the grey seal and the harp seal are frequently seen in the area.
Croisières AML offers much more than a simple excursion: it is a magical experience that should not be missed! During the cruise, a naturalist-guide will be happy to share his extensive knowledge of the various species in the St. Lawrence River. Furthermore, the guide will help you spot the whales and all the action going on around the boat. I hope that I have inspired in you the desire to discover the giants of the St. Lawrence! It is clearly a must-see attraction in the Charlevoix region that will delight you! One last bit of advice: make sure to dress warmly, because there is always a surprising difference between the temperature felt on land and at sea.