Length: Seven days
You don't need to go all the way to Alaska or Baja to kayak in a pristine wilderness and see amazing wildlife. Little known to U.S. residents, Quebec's Saguenay Fjord, one of North America's rare true fjords, provides breathtaking scenery, exciting kayaking (riding 15- to 17-foot tides), and encounters with whales.
Although just a few hours from Quebec City, the 60-mile-long fjord appears almost as it did more than 470 years ago when first explored by Europeans. Nearly 1,500-foot granite cliffs thrust out of the water, eventually giving way to soft green hills covered in thick pine forests. Part of the St. Lawrence River Estuary, the fjord is a salt and fresh water mix, creating a nutrient-rich marine ecosystem attracting several species of whales. They range from the sociable, pure-white beluga to the largest creature on the planet, the blue whale.
Maine-based H2Outfitters is the only U.S. company operating trips in the area. Its annual seven-day Saguenay Fjord kayak trip runs in August. You'll paddle for five of the seven days and cover six to 12.5 miles per day. Nights are spent camping in tucked-away sites accessible only by boat. Traveling with the current, you'll pass by small islands, caves created by glaciers, waterfalls, and rock walls that reveal sediments in spiraling patterns. Seals are a common sight, but it's at Baie St. Marguerite that you find the real excitement: beluga whales.
"There was one special day when beluga whales were swimming upstream to one of their favorite feeding bays, and they swam under and around us for what seemed like an hour or so," says Tom Boghosian of Mays Landing, New Jersey, who did the trip last year. "It was a thrill."
This trip runs August 2 to 9. The $975 price includes campground fees, kayaks, spray-skirts and life jacket, wetsuits, most meals, and guides. You must provide your own camping equipment and transportation to the start point in St. Rose du Nord, Quebec. Flights from New York to Quebec City, where the nearest major airport is located, start at $299, including all taxes, on Hotwire. From Quebec City, it's a three-hour drive.
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