Jeff Gephart mentioned Paradis Marin (pronounced PahraDEE MahROHN)  in his trip report, and it stuck with me. It's an excellent choice for kayakers wishing to paddle with whales. The whole place is set up to accommodate kayakers, and there's an outfitter offering guided tours from the premises. It would also be a wonderful place to bring the non-kayaking spouse or kids - no paddling skill required, and so many whales to see either from a rented kayak just offshore, or from the rock cliffs. Just 100 feet off the bouldery cliffs in front of my campsite (the view from my site is shown above), minke whales are surfacing, and seals pop up here and there. A kayak launch is nearby. Tomorrow, if the seas are calm, I hope to paddle out. I can't believe all the whales! And the noise they make!

Minke passing by at sunset, as viewed from my campsite.

Wednesday, September 6, 2007

Very cold last night, but before dawn I heard the sound of whales blowing in the cove. Instantly forgot the cold, donned all the clothing I'd brought, and climbed onto the rocks to watch. Several minkes moved through, getting started on breakfast.

Fin whale passing by at sunrise

At about 9 - and seeing no one else making a move to get out there - I decided to go while the wind was light (I'm feeling a little sensitive about wind right now). As I pulled the boat off the car, another kayaker approached with his. I helped him carry it, and he invited me to kayak with him.

Here, kayaking involves paddling out to where the whales have been popping up, often a few hundred feet from shore, and then sitting and waiting. Jean was very good at figuring out where to sit and wait. Within minutes, we found ourselves directly in the path of a pair of approaching whales.

These fellas are BIG. I thought I wanted to be as close as possible - until I saw that enormous dark body headed right for me. We both instinctively back-paddled to get out of the way. Jean told me he'd once had one come up under him, lift him a little, and then gently sink back down. Whale-tale? Hard to tell with Jean.

Minke whale passes right by us. These are smallish whales, but they are still REALLY big!

Fin whale. They tend to travel in pairs, and there were two here, surfacing one after another. These are much bigger than the minkes and they don't hump up but just skim the surface.

A fin whale passed directly between Jean and me. Much excitement! We were very lucky on this first day to be in the midst of so much action.

While we waited for more encounters (there were many), Jean told me about kayaking in Disko Bay (Greenland) - "Even the little kids had boats, those skinny narrow ones. One little boy flipped over and paddled his boat upside down! [Was his name Maligiaq?!] And they wear a sort of jacket that's all connected to the sprayskirt and it has a hood... like yours!"

He has also kayaked in Spitzbergen Island (Norway) and Baja (Mexico) and Ellesmere Island. He used to dive in the icy St. Lawrence, and pilot a glider. Jean lives in Chicoutimi on the Saguenay but he comes here to Les Bergeronnes all the time for the whales. "Best place in the world for whales!"

I hear a whale blowing again. Going to watch.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Brilliant sunrise over the St. Lawrence. This is direct out of the camera. It really was this intense.

An early bird waits for nearby whales to come closer.

This morning there were two humpbacks in front of the campground. (I keep wanting to call them hunchbacks.) I did not get my boat in the water fast enough to be close to them, but Jean did. He was ecstatic. All I could do was watch the flukes flash and sink, a quarter mile away. Even so, it's quite special to see a humpback from a kayak!

Not much action after that. They come, they go. I tried a few rolls in the frigid water. The tuilik hood kept my head warm for about 15 seconds before I began to feel the numbing cold. That's enough time for a kayaker to make 2 or 3 roll attempts. My rolls were sluggish, probably the effect of 8 consecutive days in the boat.

Waiting for the humpbacks to resurface...

The early morning ocean was like a mirror. It was mesmerizing to paddle.

Strong wind came up by 11 and everyone headed for shore. I loaded the boat onto the car, had a quick lunch, and headed for the Saguenay Park. I went to Baie Ste. Marguerite, quite randomly, but also fortuitously, as this is where the Belugas are most concentrated. A walk of a mile or so ended at an observation deck. And sure enough, there were the vividly white whales, more the size of a seal than a whale.

A park researcher was there taking notes every 5 minutes to determine what areas of the bay should be off limits to any boats. She pointed out a mama and baby, said belugas are on the verge of extinction. I promised to stay 400 m away from any I saw.

Video of whales on Saguenay

Tonight, a tepid shower, the last of the camp dinners, and a hot cup of tea carried onto the rocks to watch a minke pass back and forth just offshore. Tomorrow I pack up and spend the day on the Saguenay, and then it's homeward bound.

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