Whale-watching trips from Tadoussac and the surrounding communities are best done from mid-May to mid-October. Generally, prices for 2–3hr trips from Tadoussac are around $55 in a large, sturdy and comfortable boat, and $65–75 in a zodiac, which provides a more exciting ride. The price drops the more northerly the starting-point: similar excursions from Les Bergeronnes and Les Escoumins cost around $40 in a Zodiac. You’ll spend less time on the water from points of departure north of Tadoussac, but they are closer to where the whales are most likely to be, so you get about the same amount of contact time for less money. If you’re worried about missing a reservation in Tadoussac because of the ferry queue, ask to board at the quay in Baie-Sainte-Catherine instead – many of the companies fill up their boats on both shores of the mouth of the Saguenay before heading off to see the whales. Some firms also run cruises up the Fjord du Saguenay, as well as combined whale/fjord packages. Load up with brochures at the tourist office and compare what’s on offer.
The companies listed below have all been leading tours for several years. Officially, boats are not allowed to stray within 400m of the protected belugas, but the whales don’t know that and often come thrillingly close to the craft.
Alternatively, take the short hike around the Pointe de l’Islet from the marina in Tadoussac, which has lookout points for beluga-spotting. Improve your chances for a sighting by heading to even better lookout points along the shore: Baie-Sainte-Marguerite, west of Tadoussac, and Cap-de-Bon-Désir, just past Les Bergeronnes, are the best. An array of interpretation centres supplement the whale-watching adventures, but don’t miss the excellent Centre d’Interprétation des Mammifères Marins in Tadoussac.
From Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine
Croisières AML t 418 235 4642, t 1 800 563 4643, w croisieresaml.com. Gives you the option of a large boat or Zodiac tours that last 2–3hr.
Croisières Groupe Dufour At the Hôtel Tadoussact 418 235 4421, t 1 800 561 0718, w dufour.ca. Whale safaris aboard a variety of boats, including a catamaran and a 48-person Zodiac.
Otis Excursions 431 rue Bâteau-Passeur t 418 235 4197, w otisexcursions.com. For trips in large catamarans and twelve-person Zodiacs.
From south of Tadoussac
Croisières Groupe Dufour t 1 800 463 5250, w dufour.ca. Offers a 150min excursion ($64) from Saint-Siméon, 1hr 15min south of Tadoussac, aboard a Zodiac-style 47-passenger boat.
From north of Tadoussac
Les Croisière Essipit 46 De la Réserve Street, Essipit Reservation and Information Centre t 418 233 2266, t 1 888 868 6666, w essipit.com. Uses the quay in Les Bergeronnes and runs 2hr trips aboard twelve-person Zodiacs (early June to late Oct).
Croisières Neptune 507 rue du Boisé, Les Bergeronnes t 418 232 6716 and 31 rue des Pilotes, Les Escoumins t 418 233 4343, w croisieresneptune.net. Trips in Zodiacs.
Les Écumeurs 4 Hwy-138 t 418 233 2141, t 1 888 817 9999, w lesecumeurs.com. The least expensive of the options north of Tadoussac; launches its Zodiacs from Les Escoumins, just south of the marine park (see Whale-watching from the Tadoussac area).