The Allure Behind Whalewatching Tours, Or…Not


I essentially travel non stop so my bucket-list is nearly non-existent – I prefer to make the most of whichever destination I happen to be visiting at a particular time, rather than targeting specific experiences and creating my travel schedule based on them. But there is one travel experience I absolutely must have before I die: Seeing Whales. 

When I looked at the itinerary for my recent trip to Québec’s Gaspé peninsula, I was delighted to see “Whale Watching” listed at 4:00 p.m. on Day 2, after a first day at Percé Rock and Île de Bonaventure, and the morning of the second day exploring Forillon National Park, at the very tip of the peninsula.

Forillon Park Historial Home
Forillon Park Roses
Forillon Park Rock

I was anxious the entire time we traipsed around Forillon, a natural wonderful replete with cedar- and birch-lined, rocky beaches, dramatically hills that roll and swoop like the flight paths of seabirds and an impossibly refreshing breeze which, as I mentioned earlier this week, can best be described as feeling the way a stick of wintergreen gum tastes.

A pleasant distraction came in the form of Antoine, the park’s staff photographer. A skinny, sexy slab of viande who originally hails from the southern French city of Nice, Antoine was nice enough to let me ride in his car en route from the place we all entered Forillon, on its north sore, to the southern spot where our whale watching journey would begin.

French photographer

J’ai besoin de pratiquer mon français,” I explained to Antoine, after our all-in-French discussion of our similar life paths – Antoine, it turns out, has traveled nearly as much as I have. He laughed upon hearing my self-doubt insisting, as most foreigners to whom I speak in their own languages tend to do, that my mastery of their mother tongue is better than theirs of mine – it never is, à mon avis.

In any case, after a relaxing coastal walk with the other journalists, we arrived at the whale watching boat marina, and suited up – because of how wet whale-watching trips tend to be, we had to put on head-to-toe raincoats. When a burly man speaking in an extremely Québecois accent came over, I assumed it was to give us a safety briefing.

Québec Lighthouse
Whale Watching Boat
Whale Watching Writers
Whale Watching Pier

Not so.

“The waves are too large today,” he explained to the other travel writers and I, after having told the same news in his extremely difficult-to-understand French to local tourists booked on our boat, “so we can’t see the whales today. We’d offer you an opportunity tomorrow,” he continue, “but the Québec Maritime girls have told me you’re already booked.”

And so, seeing whales remains the foundation of my bucket list. Womp womp…

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who's been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as "CNNGo" and "Shanghaiist" along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.
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