From mid-May to mid-October, there are many options to see whales or cruise the majestic Saguenay River. Companies use different sizes and types of watercraft, from stately catamarans and cruisers that carry up to 500 to powered inflatables called Zodiacs that carry 10 to 25 passengers. The larger boats have snack bars and naturalists onboard to describe the action, and options to sit at tables inside or ride the observation bowsprit, high above the waves. Zodiacs are more maneuverable, darting about at each sighting to get closer to the rolling and breaching behemoths. Zodiac passengers are issued life jackets and waterproof overalls, but expect to get wet. It's cold out there, so layers and gloves are a good idea.
Two of the biggest companies are Croisières AML (tel. 866/856-6668; www.croisieresaml.com) and Group Dufour (tel. 800/463-5250; www.dufour.ca). Both offer departures from wharves in both Baie Ste-Catherine and Tadoussac (other companies send tours out of St-Siméon, to the south). In high season, each offers about three daily whale-watching trips. Fares are comparable: 3-hour tours on the larger boats cost about C$69 adults, C$64 seniors and students, C$32 children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Two-hour Zodiac trips cost C$59 adults, C$54 seniors and students, and C$44 children 8 to 12; children younger than 8 and/or shorter than 1.4m (4 1/2 feet) are not permitted. For Zodiac tours enquire within. Check with each company for exact times, prices, and trip options. Children may also like the interactive online Blue Museum, at www.museebleu.ca/en.
Kayak trips that search out whales are available from Mer et Monde Ecotours (tel. 866/637-6663 or 418/232-6779; www.mer-et-monde.qc.ca). Visitors report that they felt the whales before they saw them -- imagine being out from the shore and feeling a vibration under the kayak hull! The company is based in Les Bergeronnes, a coastal town 20km (12 miles) north of Tadoussac, and offers tours in summer that start at the bay of Tadoussac just beyond Hôtel Tadoussac's lawn. A 3-hour trip costs C$53 adults, C$40 children 15 and under.
Although the St. Lawrence is, of course, a river, it's tidal and often called the "sea" (you'll see references to "sea kayaking"). The waters here are in a marine park, which was designated as a conservation area to protect the whales and their habitat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.