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Two baby harp seals

Baby Harp Seal Photo Safari

Example 6 Day Cruise aboard Jean Mathieu
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Live aboard a fishing vessel that navigates the St. Lawrence River around Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec during this 6-day photo safari. Experience the first few weeks in the life cycle of harp seal pups and capture precious moments in time.

For harp seals, life is defined by ice. Never straying far from it, the annual harp seal migration is perfectly timed around ice formation. During February and March, over 250,000 harp seals can be found near the Magdalen Islands. Without question, the viewing and photographic opportunities of this photo safari are spectacular and the experience of witnessing such an incredible event leaves a lasting impression on those privileged enough to spend time with these animals in their natural environment.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive on Havre aux Maisons Island, Quebec
Days 2-4 : On the ice with the seal pups
Day 5 : Disembark
Day 6 : Return home


  • Spend days observing and photographing baby harp seals and mothers
  • Enjoy rare photographic opportunities at sunrise and sunset
  • Experience a small group adventure & intimate atmosphere on a fishing boat
  • Snorkel or scuba dive to get a different perspective of the harp seals


Jean Mathieu

Places Visited


Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Two baby harp seals Baby Harp Seal with Diver Ice diving in the Arctic Harp Seal Pup Nursing A seal pup waves to the camera

Day 1 Arrive on Havre aux Maisons Island, Quebec

Arrive no later than 2:00PM at the Îles-de-la-Madeleine Airport, located on Havre aux Maisons Island in the Magdalen Islands, Quebec. Upon arrival, meet your guide at the airport and transfer to the wharf (about 40 minutes from the airport) to board the vessel and settle into your bunk. Dine at local restaurant before returning to the ship to set sail on the late evening tide.

Note: the most convenient international airport to plan your arrival and flight to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine is Montreal. Give yourself ample travel time and arrive a day earlier to give some extra buffer time for delayed luggage or other possibilities.

Day 2-4 On the ice with the seal pups

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
The location of the seal herd dictates your sailing time, which is typically between 3 to 6 hours (sometimes more if ice conditions require). Spend unhurried time viewing and photographing the babies and mothers and the impressive ice-scape. When a seal herd is found, the vessel anchors to the ice pan. Over the next few days, the boat drifts with the ice pans and seals.

During your stay aboard the fishing vessel, expect to savor gourmet meals, wines, and specialty cheeses along with interesting lectures. You can also take advantage of the resource library to learn more about the geography and wildlife found in the area.

Sunset and sunrise photography opportunities
With the clear days at this time of year, one of the “money shots” is that of the baby harp seals at sunrise and sunset. The only way to capture this moment is from a boat based adventure, as helicopters can only fly during daylight hours. Position yourself well to take advantage of baby harps backlit by the crimson sun!

Snorkel or Scuba Dive with Baby Harp Seals Option
Want to get a different perspective of the harp seals? Try donning a drysuit and get into the water. (All trips are run with the welfare of the animals in mind, so snorkeling and dives are subject to local conditions.) Departures are timed to arrive when the seals start entering the water. If you are an experienced diver, do not miss this opportunity!

Day 5 Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Arrive back during the fifth day. Exact arrival time depends on the ice conditions. After disembarking transfer to the hotel for dinner and an overnight.

Day 6 Return home

Transfer to the airport for your return journey home. Please book either an Air Canada 7:30AM or 2:30PM flight off the island to your connecting destination home.

This itinerary is intended to be representative only as weather and wildlife conditions play a large role in dictating daily movements and activities. It is important to have a spirit of flexibility when travelling to any icebound location.

Jean Mathieu

Per person starting at
Bunk bed on Jean Mathieu fishing vessel
Select a Date
Bunk bed cabin
Cabins contain bunk beds and simple accommodations.


* Please add 13% sales tax from Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine

When to Go
Week One – March 3 to 8: Mainly for on-ice photographs as pups are younger. There is a chance for underwater encounters.
Week Two – March 8 to 13: Good time for top-side and underwater encounters. Ideal for snorkelers or divers that want to get in the water with the pups.

Note: Both departures are prime viewing dates for seal pup photography.

  • Return transfers from and to Îles-de-la-Madeleine Airport
  • One night accommodation at a local hotel
  • Four nights accommodation on board vessel
  • All meals while aboard the vessel, and two dinners at a local restaurant or hotel
  • Mustang Floater Suit for duration of stay aboard vessel and while out on the ice

Not Included
  • Flights to Îles-de-la-Madeleine from your point of departure.
  • Any other clothing kit (boots, parka etc.)
  • Tips, gratuities, personal expenses
  • Travel, medical and evacuation insurance coverage
  • Additional costs associated with weather and/or layovers
  • Optional gear rental package: $495 cold water scuba/snorkel gear
  • Optional polar clothing package: from CDN $99-599 and subject to 13% sales tax. Reduce overweight or excess baggage charges. Parka, boots and gloves will be waiting for you upon arrival.
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