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Whale Watching Around the Maritime Coastline of Canada

Published by Tina Isa, Writer

Country: Canada

The Experience

Given the lifestyle of Canada's eastern coast, the best way to discover the Maritimes is slowly and relaxed. Instead of rushing through on a whirlwind tour, why not try a camping road trip instead? You'll find countless gorgeous photo-worthy and fun spots to discover, most of which aren't even mentioned in a lot of guidebooks. Book off a week or two, rent a car, and plan your route around the coast of New Brunswick or Quebec, along the banks of the St. Lawrence river. This area in particular is a haven for whale watching, as they pass through during their summer feeding season.

Nature enthusiasts and photographers will be thrilled to watch everything from seals and dolphins, to belugas, baleens, blue whales and humpbacks, play and burst out of the water. This usually happens quite close to the waterside camping areas too. If you ask at the campsite offices, they will provide you with an illustrated chart of the various species of marine mammals to look out for based on the time of year. Dying for a closer look? A number of companies at the campsites also operate guided boating excursions along the St. Lawrence River (row boats, kayaks and zodiacs also available), which will take you mere metres away from the whales. I would highly advise this since the guides are extremely knowledgeable about the whales, the local ecosystem, migratory patterns, and so on.

If you choose not to get into the water, don't feel left out. Quite often the whales come close to the cliffs, where some camping sites are situated. Imagine seeing a blue whale breach out of the water right in front of you as you prepare supper over the campfire! If you opt for this route, keep a camera on hand and wait for the whales. There is no warning when they leap out of the water; but when they do—it is quick and magnificent.

Bird watchers will have a field day spotting various marine birds, including razorbill penguins perched on the cliff walls. If you do happen to be visiting in early spring (although I must warn that it will still be rather cold at this time), you'll be lucky enough to see mass amounts of seals coming back for their birthing season.




When to Go to Gaspe Whale

The best time to visit is during the summer, when the days are long and the whole area truly comes alive. During the summer months, the whales patrol the St. Lawrence River regularly in order to feed, since the marine life is abundant in these shallower waters. Keep an eye on the water during the daytime and early evening for the most frequent number of whale sightings. Although there is much less activity after sunset, you'll still be able to hear the whales "sighing" through their blowholes from afar during the night.

If you do decide to embark on a camping road trip, make sure to be properly prepared with all the necessary supplies. Most of the New Brunswick camping grounds are well maintained and family-oriented, as well as pet-friendly. If you plan on swimming a lot, aim to be there later in the summer when the water warms up a little more.

Odds n' Ends

Mosquito spray and repellants are vital if you're going to be roughing it. Some areas are not bad at all, whereas others have the bugs and flies swarming in droves. Citronella candles, mosquito coils and some spray will allow you avoid the annoyance.

The weather can be unpredictable, with thunderstorms breaking out at a moment's notice, so bring an extra ground tarp and an overhead tarp to keep your tent dry, as well as extra clothes. The nights (especially by the water) get quite cold too, even as late as August, so you will find extra sleeping bags and blankets quite welcome.

Most of the Maritimes camping grounds DO NOT allow external firewood to be brought into their sites (for fear of introducing external species of bugs that may endanger their ecosystems). In lieu of this, they do sell bundles of firewood at the campsites. You can usually purchase these at the registration cabin.

If you decide to go swimming or boating, check the tide timetables. At night, the tides can come in dangerously high, so you don't want to be trapped on what used to be the shore!


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