Lunch with the Belugas at Baie Sainte Marguerite, Québec
I remember a song from my childhood called Baby Beluga by Raffi. Does anyone else remember that one?
Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.
Anyway, for some reason, it made quite an impression on me as a child. There is just something so mystical about those pure white whales that I never really thought about them actually existing in the world. So as you can imagine, I was quite excited to find out that they feed regularly in the Saguenay fjord, and that it’s pretty easy to see them.
Baie Ste. Marguerite, located within Saguenay Fjord National Park, is an ideal location to observe belugas. They are regularly spotted feeding in groups in the shallow, warmer waters. In order to see them, you can rent a sea kayak or take a tour, or observe them from the beluga lookout point (la halte du béluga). The 6.4 km trail is pretty easy, and consists of mostly flat ground and a long boardwalk through a pine forest. Be sure to stop in the Beluga Discover Center to learn a bit about these small whales before setting off. Park rangers also make regular presentations at the lookout.
Our first experience in the Saguenay Fjord was a quick one, as we spent most of our time near Les Escoumins on the St. Lawrence coast. We had terrible weather, leaving us with only short windows of time to get outside. We thought we’d quickly try to see the belugas on our drive from Tadoussac to Chicoutimi. Unfortunately, the bridge at the beginning of the trail had been damaged in the recent storms rendering the beluga lookout inaccessible by foot. This was a huge disappointment, but it gave us an excuse to visit the area again.
Later in the summer, on our second trip to the Saguenay fjord, we camped at Au Sommet du Fjord (an experience in itself) which is just a short drive from Baie Ste. Marguerite. Our main goal this time was to see belugas.
We spent the first evening at the lookout, but didn’t see anything. The sunset over the fjord was not a bad consolation prize, however. A little discouraged, we resolved to wake up early the following morning to be at the bay during the rising tide. Our diligence paid off, and we finally spotted several belugas!
Feeling pretty pleased, we decided to eat some lunch and enjoy the view. As we ate, we saw more and more belugas. Over the course of a couple of hours, we counted at least 30 swimming in from the St. Lawrence with the tide, in groups of 2 or 3. Eventually, we gave up counting as they congregated to feed in the bay.
They were a bit far away, even for my longest lens, but we still were able to get a pretty good look at them with our binoculars. And the most amazing discovery of all is that belugas are LOUD! I had no idea we’d actually be able to hear them. I found it fascinating to listen to their clicking and whistling as they swam by.
Even if you don’t spot any belugas, Baie Ste. Marguerite is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. There’s a sandy beach, lots of rocks to climb on and quite a view.