Summer Vacation 2014 – Fourth Leg – Riviere-du-Loup

Okay. So I lied. I am not going to stick to chronological posts. I just can’t. As beautiful as PEI is – which I will fully cover in my next post – nothing can top my experience from yesterday and I just can’t wait to write about it. The quick version of the story is that I went whale watching. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway because a few details would be helpful. A few months ago, when our summer vacation was in its early planning stages, I thought that while we were in PEI we could go whale watching. What I didn’t realize, until I did some research, is that whales don’t really come by PEI. It’s either Newfoundland or on the St. Lawrence River. After some searching I discovered that from the South shore of the St. Lawrence, there are many whale watching cruises leaving out of Riviere-du-Loup. As luck would have it, we had to drive right by there on the Trans-Canada highway between Quebec City and PEI. I found a company called AML Cruises and (somewhat blindly) booked tickets. I thought well, at worst it will be a nice 3 hour cruise of the St. Lawrence. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any whales, right?

Wrong. I went out on that cruise thinking, if I’m lucky we’ll see some Belugas but not much else. Belugas were actually the only whale that I knew for sure traveled in pods down the St. Lawrence and could be seen very far West. I really, really hoped – especially for my kids’ sakes – that we’d see at least one Beluga. Well…the irony was that we didn’t see any Belugas…but we did see whales. Oh yes we did. The most numerous whale types that we saw were the Minke whales. According to the cruise director, who was quite knowledgeable about whales, Minkes tend to usually stay below the surface for up to 20 minutes between breaths. He was surprised to see them spending more time at the surface. It was fine with all of us on the cruise, that’s for sure. Minkes are smaller whales and reach up to about 24 feet (on average). We actually mistook them as Orcas at first but were quickly corrected. We watched them as they came up for breath and then dove again in an arch. They don’t, however, bring their tails out of the water. Here is the best shot I got of a Minke. It was swimming not far from our boat.

Minke Whale

On the cruise we went East on the St. Lawrence and reached the Saguenay River where the fresh waters of the St. Lawrence mix with the salt waters of the Atlantic. There was actually a visible line as we moved from one water type to the other. The salt water was a deep, dark indigo whereas the fresh water was more of a green/blue. The Minke whales were in the fresh waters closer to the marina but we were in for a surprise once we reached the salt water. There were several smaller cruise boats (Zodiacs) already there and they were watching something. Suddenly we spotted and heard a huge spout as a very large whale surfaced to breathe. I was actually surprised as to how loud the sound was as it blew the water out of its blow hole.

Blue Spray

The cruise director excitedly announced that what we were watching was a BLUE WHALE! Apparently it was an adolescent, so smaller than a full-grown Blue…but who cares? At the very same time, the director also spotted a Humpback further out. Where the heck was I supposed to point my camera? I decided upon following the closer whale, the Blue, and hoped for it to dive and raise its tail out of the water. Dive it did and it brought that glorious tail high into the air as if it were performing for us. My kids were screaming and jumping up and down with delight. You could hear the entire cruise “Ohhhhhhhh!” at the exact same time. It was an absolutely amazing experience! What a majestic creature!

Blue Whale

As if seeing one Blue whale wasn’t exciting enough. We couldn’t believe it when the cruise director announced that there was another, larger Blue in the same waters that was full-grown. He estimated it would be about 30 metres (98 feet) in length given the size of its tail. It gave us the same show as the smaller Blue. I could have died right then and there. My life was complete. 🙂

Blue Whale Tail

If you are ever in a place where you can take a whale watching cruise, DO IT!! Do not miss this experience.


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