Hi All, Wanted to share our whale experience in Bergeronnes. We chose this area, approx. 20 min north of Tadoussac, because the water is deeper closer to shore--meaning you are able to see a wider variety (larger sized) whales at a closer distance. We wanted a very intimate, low-key experience so we chose to see the whales via kayak, rather than amongst 200+ people on a double decker boat, and rather than zipping around in a zodiac boat.
We used Mer et Monde Ecotours out of Ansa La Cave, Bergeronnes. It is a 4 hour ordeal, leaving in the morning, at noon, or late afternoon. The 1st hour is a lesson on the geography of the water, the whale species and other marine life, and on kayak paddling technique. As this area of Quebec is mostly French-speaking, you will get somewhat of an English translation--about 1 or 2 sentences worth for every 6-8 sentences spoken in French Canadian, but the staff and guides are very helpful so try not to let the language-thing bother you as the area caters heavily to the Canadian tourists. You are asked to wear a thin under layer (in the summer-time), consisting of either a bathing suit or thin shorts and t-shirt. Over this they will furnish you with a wetsuit, an apron (keeps you dry in the kayak), a life vest and water booties. You should bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, drinking water and a camera. There is an area to change clothes and to stash your extra stuff, or the front desk can hold your valuables if you wish.
Each kayak fits 2 people (the one who sits in the back does most of the work!!) and the guide is in a single kayak. They limit each group to 8 people, meaning 4 kayaks + the guide and this makes for a better experience. Before you get out on the water, they help you adjust your seat and foot rests so you will be comfortable, and they test the workings of your kayak with you.
Out on the water, you will see seals, small beluga whales, mink whales, and if lucky you'll get to see the even larger whales with the wide tale splaying out as they dive. Even though you are pretty close to shore, the water is extremely deep and very black. This means you will hear the whale (hear the blow-hole working) before you see him. The sound of this, especially the first time, will take your breath away and is probably something you wouldnt experience if sitting in a large water craft with the engine roaring. Next, you'll see the dorsal fin breaking through the top of the water and rolling. THe whale will roll a few times (it is feeding on plankton) before it dives down and disappears. Then, paddling here and there across the water, you wait in anticipation as you scan the horizon for the next whale siting. We were able to see several whales up close and then some larger ones in the distance. Dont be misled by the images on the company's website, it is extremely rare to get as close to a whale as what appears on the website. Still, it is very exciting and alot of fun. This is also a great family activity, with kids aged 10 and up.
We chose to combine our kayak trip with one night of camping on the Mer et Monde camp ground property. On their website, you can view the map of the locations of all the campsites. Some are set back from the water and are on bare ground. Others are very close to the water, and consist of a wood deck platform perched on a rocky point above the water's edge. We chose campsite #8, very "exposed" as stated on the website, however we felt we had our own private slice of the campground, and had a phenomenal panoramic view of the St.Lawrence. If you dont have your own gear (we did not), they will furnish tent, sleeping bags, foam sleeping pad and sleeping bag liner. Our tent was nearly new and all the sleeping gear was extremely clean. You need to bring 2 small ropes, each about 20 feet in length and about as thick as a clothesline, in order to secure the corners of the tent to the wood deck (very easy to do, the deck has metal rings and hardware for this purpose). As we were putting up our tent, the dorsal fin of a mink whale was right in front of us--just over the rocky edge of our site and we gasped in awe. Your site also comes with a picnic table and 1 or 2 fire pits. They sell bags of firewood for $5 at the kayak office, which stays open in the summer till 10pm. There is no drinking water on this campground, there are some toilet facilites, and there is another campground about 8 min. drive away where you can shower (bring quarters to pay for shower=$1.50 per person).
Sitting by the fire and watching the fog roll in and out over the St.Lawrence, you'll hear the seals and other marine life, as well as blowholes in the distance! When the fog breaks, you may be lucky enough to see a few whales going by. The serenity draws you in and quiets the mind and you find yourself not wanting to move from this sacred spot. In the summer time, the rains blow through and appear rather fierce; however, within 20 min or less they have passed and the sun shines again along with the emerging rainbow. Just be sure to use the outer cover piece over the tent, and tie it down to the deck as well. Zipping all zippers completely, these measures will keep the inside of your tent dry.
In this part of the world, the sun rises before 5am in the summer, and we awoke to the sound of the whales' blowholes just minutes before sunrise. Sitting on the edge of the rocky outcrop with the water below, we watched the marine life activity while all of our surrounding camp neighbors slept soundly. A small squirrel visited our next door neighbors' campsite, stealing some left over cheese off of their picnic table and then, discovering a backpack, the squirrel proceeded to pull an unopened candy bar out of the pack! Nervously looking around (yes, the squirrel actually looked around like any thief would), he scampered off with the entire bar. Later on, we found the empty wrapper, open at both ends and we returned it to our neighbors and shared a laugh. (A warning to bring all food into your tent at night or leave it in your parked car!) As the fellow campers began to awaken, we noticed that everyone maintained an aire of quiet silence. THere was no banging about or loud conversation from any camp site, as everyone seemed to respect the fact that we were all there to take in this experience to the fullest and interfering with the stillness of the place would alter such an experience. Many stood on the rocky outcrops, scanning the horizon for whales and other sea life, sipping coffee from their mugs and excitedly pointing in the direction of a siting. Wishing we could stay a few more nights, we hesitantly packed up our gear, as it was time for us to head back to Quebec City. Perhaps someday we will be fortunate enough to be able to return to this special place.