Diving in Les Escoumins, Quebec, Canada

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Elizabeth Morin diving in Les Escoumins
Elizabeth is all rugged up for a dive in Les Escoumins, Quebec, Canada. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Les Escoumins in Quebec, Canada.

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN LES ESCOUMINS?

The Escoumins region is known for its’ incredible biodiversity. When diving in Les Escoumins you have to keep in mind that almost everything comes from the animal kingdom. You can see colorful marine life such as starfish, nudibranches, anemones, sea cucumbers, sea urchins. You may also encounter crabs, lobsters, and even wolffish.

Incredible biodiversity is found in the Les Escoumins
The Escoumins region is known for its incredible biodiversity. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

If you want to go to Les Escoumins specifically, I suggest you land in Bagotville and rent a car. Les Escoumins is 2h15 minutes from Bagotville. Bagotville is the closest airport.

However, if you are already visiting the lovely Quebec City, you can get to Les Escoumins by car and it is about 3h45 minutes from the city. It is quite easy to get there, you just have to look for the Centre de découverte du milieu marin (CDMM or the Marine Environment Discovery Centre)!

WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?

The maximum depth of the lower St. Lawrence estuary is about 1,115 ft (340m). However, in the Les Escoumins region, it is easy to stay at shallow depths since the slope is generally not steep at the dive sites.

Soft corals in Les Escoumins
Colorful soft corals can be found in the Escoumins region. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

Centre de Découverte du Milieu Marin (CDMM):

Before diving at the CDMM, it is a good idea to call the center to confirm the opening hours.

La Baie des Anémones

The most recently developed site by the CDMM, located in Anse-à-Robitaille. The site is located in a calm bay, most of the time sheltered from waves and currents. The rocky bottom covered with pink encrusting algae is densely populated with anemones and sea urchins. The launch is easier with the rising tide close to the slack.

Entering the Les Escoumins
Entering La Baie des Anémones. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

La Crique Est

This site is quite busy and it is, therefore, necessary to be extra vigilant not to touch the bottom, which is already subject to strong pressure from divers.

Entrance to La Crique Est
The entrance to Entrance to La Crique Est. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

La Crique Ouest

This is the place used by divers-biologists who present the marine life of St. Lawrence to non-divers.

For non-divers, there are interpretation activities on the marine environment, including the St-Laurent en Direct activity and permanent exhibition rooms.

Camping du Paradis Marin:

Access to the river for scuba diving is easy at both high and low tide. You can enter the water by walking directly on the rock. However, you have to be careful, especially at low tide, to not slip when entering the water. The wet rocks are extremely slippery.

The dive begins in the kelp. We then pass through the usual strata of sea urchins and anemones. Animal density is greatest on the right side of the underwater cliffs. The slope is gentler on the left side, opposite the kayak descent. Life is less dense there but the site is still very interesting.

Fish hiding in the Escoumins
Hiding out in Les Escoumins. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

TELL ME MORE

Most of the dive sites are accessible from the shore.

You can also contact Accès Plongée if you wish to do charter dives from the area. This is very interesting if you want to visit more distant sites or do a drift dive.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

I recommend a drysuit, or at least a 14mm suit if you want to get comfortable. It is also good to have a dive light if you want to see the true color of the underwater creatures. I also recommend having an SMB for safety reasons and if you plan to do drift dives from charters.

Read More: What Should Divers do for their Own Safety?

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

To dive in the province of Quebec, it is mandatory to hold a “Certificate of Qualification in Recreational Scuba Diving” from the Quebec Government. This certificate is also known as a FQAS (Fédération Québécoise des Activités Subaquatiques or Quebec Underwater Federation) qualification.

You will need this certificate or to be accompanied by a diving instructor who can provide this certification. If you are interested in diving in Quebec, I highly recommend that you go to one of the many good dive shops we have in the area. They will be able to answer your questions on this particularity that we have in this province.

All the dive sites are accessible to Open Water divers, however, I do suggest that you have a drysuit certification.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

The water temperature is around 39°F or 4°C. However, the water may be cooler because it is saltwater and the freezing point is lower. I have already seen 29°F or -1°C on my computer while diving.

Visibility and currents are really affected by the weather and the tide. Conditions can change quickly, so it is important to remain aware of the surroundings.

On a good day you can have 40 to 50 feet (12-15m) of visibility, and on a bad day you can’t even see your dive buddy!

The diving in Les Escoumins begins when there is no more ice on the St. Lawrence River, therefore around March, and ends when the ice returns around December.

Crab in Les Escoumins
Little critters can be found everywhere in Les Escoumins. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Morin

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

The price will change depending on the type of diving you want to do. If you already have your FQAS and don’t need supervision, the price will only be site access, which is around $10 CAD.

If you do not have FQAS, then you will need to book with a diving instructor authorized to issue you the certification. Prices vary from one dive shop to another. If you want to do your Open Water course, most dive shops will be teaching in French. Though most of the shops have a bilingual instructor, so don’t worry, you can also be supervised in English.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

There are styles of accommodation to suit all tastes. You can camp at the Paradis Marins, get a room in a hotel or take an AirBnB.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?

I am from Quebec City, so I often just make a round trip to go diving. However, I do recommend a Quebec City dive shop, Plongée Nautilus. They often organize trips to Les Escoumins and have a hostel. They sometimes organize themed weekends, such as BBQ, Crab party, and Octoberfest. The theme mainly influences the food they will serve and the atmosphere of the weekend.

The hostel has a rustic decor with diving as the theme. You will sleep in bunk beds with other divers or soon to be divers. Nautilus is really all about a great spirit of cohesion and fun. At the end of the weekend, you will feel like part of the family. It is about $375 CAD for the weekend, which includes accommodation, 3 meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday, supervision by an instructor or divemaster, site access fees, and filling cylinders.

Honestly, I recommend calling Plongée Nautilus if you want a memorable trip and have professional staff to guide you through the weekend.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Les Escoumins is an incredible place to dive. I go there often and every time I am always amazed to discover new underwater creatures. The underwater life is simply amazing, and the colors breathtaking. It is easy to spend several minutes observing the same rock and seeing more and more species. Life in the Saint Lawrence is omnipresent.

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

In the Les Escoumins region, the most popular tourist activity is whale watching. You can do this in a zodiac or on a larger boat. You can also watch whales from the shore. Several species are observable, such as blue whales, killer whales, beluga whales and fin whales. You can also go from the helicopter to see the scenery from the sky. Another interesting activity is sea kayaking, which you can also do on the St. Lawrence River.

I started scuba diving in 2015 when I was 18. I am a PADI Divemaster and a TDI Helitrox CCR, OC deco procedures and cave diver. I like to mentor and advise new divers. Diving is for me my sweet escape and I like to share this feeling of calm and joy with others. I work in the Royal Canadian Air Force and volunteer with the St. John Ambulance as a First Aid Instructor. I dive as much as I can and my favorite fish is the Atlantic Wolffish, but I’m also a huge octopus fan.