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Whales galore in the Saint Lawrence River

December 2nd, 2015

What? Whales in a river? Well, yes and no because the leviathans are seen where the river has become more of a long, narrow estuary (actually the largest in the world). Nevertheless, this part of the Saint Lawrence is still referred to as a river so you could technically say that you saw whales in a river if you look for them from the village of Tadoussac. Semantics aside, this is one of the best sites for whale watching in North America. Lots of whales of four or five species can be seen after a short boat ride out into the middle of the river as opposed to occasional sightings of a few whales after motoring way out into the open ocean.

At Tadoussac, Quebec, the dramatic Sanguenay Fjord (can a fjord afford to not be dramatic?) connects with the Saint Lawrence River to provide spectacular views of cliffs that soar hundreds of feet into the air even if you don’t see any whales. In all likelihood, though, you will almost certainly see cetaceans and probably quite a few because the Sanguenay River also empties a huge amount of nutrients into the Saint Lawrence. This microscopic smorgasbord attracts plankton which in turn brings in the big guys.

Humpback, Fin, and Minke Whales are commonly seen during the summer months and the lagest animal that has ever lived on the planet, the Blue Whale, is also regularly seen in the area! Another star mammal often viewed near the confluence of the Sanguenay and Saint Lawrence is the Beluga Whale. An isolated Saint Lawrence population of these uncommon, bus-sized, white whales was the impetus for the creation of the Sanguenay-Saint Lawrence National Park. Smaller marine mammals such as seals, porpoises, and dolphins are also frequently sighted and visitors to the area might even see a Killer Whale or the critically endangered Northern Right Whale.

All of this whale watching is easily done during the summer months on trips that leave from Tadoussac, a short, three hour drive from Quebec City.

visit the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

December 2nd, 2015


Sunset, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, Luca Galuzzi 2006

A recent issue of the New Yorker magazine has a fascinating article about Lithium mining in Bolivia. It discusses the issues around how Bolivia could become the next “Saudi Arabia” of Lithium as their Salar de Uyuni salt lake flats have the world’s largest Lithium deposits and with the advent of increased production of new electric cars – could position Bolivia to become a leading force, however some people worry there may be serious environmental costs to lithium mining in Bolivia. Here is a good article that you can read online from In These Times about this issue.

In the meantime the area is largely untouched and the riches of this area are more apparent in its natural surreal beauty and amazing diversity of wildlife. This YouTube video gives a good taste of what it’s like.

Sacred Earth Travel has a great package for travel to the Uyuni in Bolivia that you can read about here.

If you decide to visit Bolivia and the Salar de Uyuni consider getting the excellent guide book Bolivia, 5th: Tread Your Own Path (Footprint Bolivia Handbook), A book by the the same people who contributed to the South American Handbook (considered the definitive, classic guide to travel in South America) since the first edition back in the 70’s.

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