Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baie Ste-Marguerite, Saguenay Fjord

The Saguenay Fjord is a jewel between Quebec's famed Charlevoix and North Shore areas. As the southernmost beluga habitat, Baie Ste-Marguerite provides exceptionally good opportunities to see these unique whales.

From Tadoussac, it's a 30 minute drive (H138N to H172W) to the Belugua Discovery and Visitor Centre operated by the SEPAQ. After paying park fees to gain entrance, a 3km (~2 miles) trail starts at the parking lot. The trail has a relatively easy grade, including bicycles and the occasional service vehicles.

Numerous informational panels along the trail are well worth noting, allowing you to gain a better understanding of the surrounding area and history. Upon reaching the end of the trail, a meandering wooden walkway leads to a large observation deck, sometimes manned by a park naturalist with all the information you might want to know about belugas.

The scenery is also impressive from the lookout and along the trail.

Some unusual mushrooms lined the path also.

A small campground with a lovely beach offers another great vantage point of the fjord.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back From Paradise

We're back from our second trip to "Paradis Marin" and I'm finally getting around to write this long overdue post! All pictures in this post are copyrighted and provided courtesy of my wife Sylvie Desrochers (click on any picture to see full size).

For anyone who enjoys watching whales, the option spending a few hours in a guided boat quickly comes to mind.

The "Paradis Marin" campground offers another very interesting option, watching them all day long from the quiet comfort of a spectacular granite coastline. If you aren't camping there, they offer access to their shoreline for a fee (includes access to some picnic tables and benches).

The whales are so close to shore that you probably wouldn't get any closer to them if you were in a tour boat (guidelines suggest that boats stay at least 200 yards away from them).

This campground is very popular with kayakers (including many wooden kayak owners/builders as shown below), under-water divers, photographers and for some reason, owners of Volkswagen Westfalia Campers.

While the St-Laurent seaway is a major shipping lane, the ships are always very far from the campsite location and do not interfere with kayaks near the campground.

There is something special about seeing large ships go by, maybe I'm just not used to them.

Water temperatures are near freezing all year-round, therefore a wet-suit or dry-suit is mandatory for anyone venturing out in the water. Booties with a good sole are also recommended for walking up/down the ramp, simple neoprene socks are not sufficient.

The whale watching technique for kayakers is essentially the same observers on the coastline... relax, stay still & wait patiently. While boats should not approach wales, you can't stop a whale from approaching a kayak! Sometimes you'll see them coming from a distance, other times they'll pop out of nowhere to surprise you.

The best time to be out there is early in the morning before sunrise, when the number of kayaks is outnumbered by the number of whales.

The whales seem more relaxed and playful early in the day. They can be easily heard from the campground when most campers are still sleeping.

When not distracted by the whales, you can enjoy some spectacular scenery.

Later in the day, the number of kayaks increases steadily until the 5 o'clock rush-hour when the whales often seem to be heading back home for the night.

While most of these pictures were taken with a hand-held DSLR camera with a relatively low powered zoom lens (Canon 55-250mm IS Lens), some photography enthusiasts show up with backpacks full of equipment, along with tripods and very long telephoto lenses. It would be great to see the pictures they take!

That's not to say there aren't any other photo opportunities, such as the flowers on the campground, this time using a short macro lens.

In following posts, I'll describe an exceptional beluga habitat in the Baie Ste-Marguerite area of the Saguenay fjord as well as a hiking trail near overlooking the fjord near Tadousac.

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