Isles de la Madeleine, Quebec, Canada

Sep 10, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer

We arrived this morning in the beautiful Magdalen Islands (Isles de la Madeleine) named by Francois Doublet after his beloved wife Madeleine Fontaine in 1663.

After a delicious breakfast on board we disembarked for tours of the islands. Some of us explored the landscape by going on a hike along the shore of the main island while others explored the islands’ attractions by bus.

On the north side of the islands lies the pretty cove of Belle-Anse, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs. We walked along these cliffs, enjoying magnificent vistas and northern gannets diving for fish. The contrast of red cliffs, green grass and forest, and the blue sky made for a beautiful scene.

We paid a visit to the Musee de la Mer (Museum of the Sea) where we were introduced to life in the productive sea surrounding these islands. A highlight was the complete skeleton of a sperm whale, which formed the focus of a presentation on the evolution and adaptations of this magnificent animal. In the historical village of La Grave we explored the beach-front community and its delightful shops. One of these featured remarkable art created from local sand while another was filled with delicious locally made chocolates. At the À L'abri de la Tempête, a cottage brewery, we were treated to samples of several delicious local ales. We were able to appreciate the distinct flavors of these while basking in the sun on the balcony.

We had lunch at Le Vieux Convent. This superb converted convent combined a wonderful view with delicious food. Paintings of past nuns watched us enjoy our meal. The Fumoir d’Antan smokehouse featured a tour of this historic herring smoker where we learned about the multi-month process of converting raw fish into  delicious-tasting snacks.

Back on board, we enjoyed a presentation on the geology of Eastern Canada, as well as our traditional recap accompanied by local cheeses. A recap highlight was when undersea specialist James demonstrated the mammalian dive reflex by immersing his face in a bucket of iced water!

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About the Author

Michael Jackson


An experienced traveler, Michael has lived on several continents, including a year spent working as a naturalist and zoologist in Galápagos and three months in Kenya conducting a study of birds of prey. He is the author of Galápagos: A Natural History, a comprehensive guidebook which details the natural history of the plants and animals found on the islands. 

About the Photographer

Doug Loneman

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Doug grew up hunting in the woods and fields of Iowa before moving to Montana where he developed a deep appreciation for the fragility and beauty of nature and he put away guns and picked up a camera.

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