Kayak for Whale Watching?

I plan on going whale watching this summer in Quebec along the big rivers. Companies obviously rent out sea kayaks but I have a pretty good recreational kayak about 10 feet long. If I get the skirt and jacket for it, is it okay to take it whale watching on calm rivers and bays? I’d rather take my own kayak versus having to spend more money renting but of course if its an absolute no then I would rent. Thanks for the help!

Whales love rec kayaks. Easier to
suck out the contents and spit out the shell.

This kayak

Any experience in big water ?

– Last Updated: Mar-01-13 12:23 AM EST –

We (the readers) don't know your experience.

Obviously St. Lawrence Seaway has Big Ships that
throw up a wake, along with many other powerboats,
marinas, ports, and plenty of rules, rights of ways, etc.

Be prepared, pre-plan, pre-think, brainstorm,
before you launch and are on on the water.

Call a local shop, get water temps, conditions,
clothing tips, recon, etc., etc.

Who you gonna call if it capsizes, who is with you,
and how will you notify people of your exact location ?


Current and wind can be a ball buster on a river
- when getting back to the car to go home.

I done an 7’ funboard on St. Larry
and it was like getting flushed down the toilet.

All things considered I would use a seakayak on Maritime St. Lawerence.

Try to meet up with some other paddlers and get some experience before getting on the river. If you are talking the tidal flow areas you need some good experience in tides and rough water.

Sagaunay Region?
If you’re talking about the Tadoussac area, in the Sagaunay National Marine Sanctuary, then I’d strongly suggest a sea kayak, immersion gear, and rescue experience. That region really isn’t a river, it’s ocean paddling. There are areas of strong tidal overfalls, and when winds pick up, seas can get up along shore. There is also some serious shipping traffic in the Fjord, which can be dangerous to a kayaker.

July water temps are in the low 40s. That’s very serious, and a capsize in that water temp is a very big problem if you aren’t able to quickly rescue yourself, and if you aren’t then dressed to avoid hypothermia. Definitely full wetsuit or drysuit conditions.

If you want to rent a kayak, you can do so right at the wonderful Paradis Marin campground, in Bergeronne (I think that’s the right town - just east of Tadoussac). They have an associated outfitter, which rents boats, and also leads tours. Outfitters take safety seriously up there, however, and when we were there, anyone wishing to rent had to first demonstrate that they could do a self-rescue (in the 40-degree water!) If you’re not up to all this, you could take a kayak tour, or even go out on the RIB tours that leave from any of the villages.

That said, it’s an amazing place to visit and to kayak. You will see whales any time you sit by the ocean, and they will surround you in your kayak. We loved it up there. Belugas, Minkes, Fins, and even a Blue Whale were our constant companions. Gray seals and Harbor seals as well. Don’t miss the small marine museums in Tadoussac and Les Escoumin, they are very well done - entertaining and educational.


Second and third what Nate said
If your primary goal is watching whales rather than learning kayaking skills appropriate for the water you are likely to be in, get your whale watching time in from a large paid tour boat.

ignore the whale watching part…

– Last Updated: Mar-01-13 12:06 PM EST –

It is not a kayak that is appropriate for whale watching,. The fact that whales are there is incidental.

It is a kayak that is needed to safely paddle the area you are going to be at.

Rec boats are good for protected, calm water where you don't get far from shore (should a rec boat flip, it is often impossible to get back in while on the water, so you need to swim to shore). Are these the conditions where these whales are at?

Quite possibly not. Whales generally like deep water, and open water (where wind waves could form). Not very conducive to a rec boat.

But, it sounds like you may be taking part in a guided tour? If so, you should go by what the tour company says. If they say you can bring your own boat, then you should be good to go. If they strongly suggest or require that you rent a boat, then rent you should.

Note - the skirt likely would not do anything for your boat, beyond keep some spray out. Should you get waves over the combing, that skirt will pop off and you will take on water.

On jacket, if you are talking paddle jacket - definitely get whether you do this trip or not. Having appropriate clothing to paddle is always a good investment. Appropriate means clothing that will keep you comfortable when paddling, and alive should you flip over and/or get soaked, so it needs to be able to handle both air temps and water temps.

I second the others.
Rent a boat for your tour. The primary goal is whale watching and not paddling.

We whale watched from a fat double kayak in Alaska. At home you wouldn’t catch me remotely in the same kayak. But I was able to focus on the whales from my stable seat.

Leave your boat home. It was meant to do most of your paddling perhaps; certainly not all of it.

If you insist on bringing your boat be aware that you must carry some safety gear per Canadian law… Better to rent…they will have it.

Spot on advice

– Last Updated: Mar-01-13 12:58 PM EST –

We've been there twice, and a sea kayak is the only way to do it. Ship wakes and wind waves are sizeable there, and the water is cold year-round.

And there are usually lots of whales to see if that's what you want to be there for. But a sea kayak and immersion clothing is the only safe way to go, IMO.



My two trip reports and photos, in case you're interested.

Great advice
I had no idea that area could be rough. Thanks for the advice! I’m not advanced so I may end up considering a tour from what you said. But the names and areas is great - I’ll start with that.


Any advice on good brands for a jacket and skirt? From what everyone is saying I think I’ll stick to a guided tour and their kayaks and maybe with time and experience I’ll go find myself a sea kayak too.


Sound advice. I’m just going with the tours then and their kayaks. But I wanted to ask where you went whale watching in Alaska. Did you do this with a company and who? I some point I do want to go visit. Thanks!

Thanks for the links! It’s pretty clear I should be going with a guided tour. At least for the first time.

boat optional
If you primary goal is to see whales, the boat is optional in that part of the country. All you need is a camp chair and a cup of coffee. Sit on the rocks at Paradis Marin any given morning, and you’ll see far more whales than any fast whale watch boat out of Boston. Literally dozens of whales, within hundreds of yards, parading by in deep water, while you sit on dry sunny land, with a mug in your hand. It’s quite nice!

Admittedly, having minke whales surface feet from your cockpit in a wee sea kayak is a cool experience.


We went on a kayak cruise

– Last Updated: Mar-01-13 9:56 PM EST –

with a company that despite having a wonderful ship and outstanding food went out of business.

It was a cruise..the ONLY cruise I will ever do. Here is the sucessor to the Wilderness Explorer we went on.

You come back to the mothership at night with good food a bunk bed and showers.


I am so glad to see that kayak cruises again are offered in Glacier Bay. We did our whale watching in Icy Strait.

I am not sure the current cruise offers as much kayaking as we did. We did some 15 miles every day in kayaks and climbed glaciers. This one might be more ooopscale.