The season to watch whales is around the corner and we are happy to share with you, our experience of witnessing these giant cetaceans during one of our trips to Sri Lanka along with the thing you need to know if whale watching in is your mind. Be it the best season, what to expect, how prepared one should be, this guide has it all. Bavani Srinu shares her experience with the big blue whales during her holiday in Sri Lanka.
The largest animal on the planet is the endangered Blue Whale and can be easily spotted between December and April in Mirissa, Sri Lanka. Mirissa is at the southern tip of the island and is also close to deep waters. This is one of the reasons to spot these giant mammals so close to the land. Marine biologist Dr.Charles Anderson believes that sightings have peaked in December and April due to the whales’ migration. We also think it’s because of calmer seas.
Our morning started rather early with a ride in a tuk-tuk to Mirissa. Our hotel was 10 min away from the Mirissa harbor. The driver was pleasant, chatty and kept us engaged during the ride. With the smell of fresh air, wind gushing through our hair we were anxious and excited to make this trip into the ocean.
Once we reached the harbor, we saw that it was a busy morning, like all morning for the fishermen while a rather early morning for lazy bums like us. We were welcomed by our guide who took us to the vessel which would take us into the sea. It was an unpretentious, non-luxurious small 40 seater boat with seats in the lower level and bare space in the upper deck for observation. We hopped in with the help of the boatman who stretched his hand out as a sign of assurance. Did he know how unsure I was by the look on my face? He probably has seen a lot of them like me during his trips I guess.
I shirked away from the fear of the unknown and hopped in. There were fellow passengers on the boat, smiling courteously at the new entrants and waiting patiently to start the trip. The sun was up by then and my eyes wandered to the wall where the lifejackets were. It’s important to know where safety is when something happens. Paranoia! Pushing that thought aside, I looked forward into the deep blue ocean, with boats in the vicinity, all of them dancing to the tunes of the ocean like it’s one orchestrated event.
We heard the engine motors roar and the moment of no turning back was right there. The journey began. It was nice and slow, this tiny vessel cutting through the waves gently and in 20 minutes or so, we lost sight of the land. We were in the middle of the ocean. The boat slowed down and we waited. A Chinese couple looked sick, the woman rubbing her husband’s back to help him relieve the queasiness in the stomach. A helper came around with plastic bags for the ones who had a weak stomach and had to throw up. The couple took it gladly. Another family of four, with two children, seemed all thrilled. And there were more people standing, waiting to spot these beautiful mammals.
We were told that one can spot Blue whales, Bryde´s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, sometimes Killer whales, and common dolphins such as Bottlenose, Spinner and Striped dolphins. However, the first thing we spotted were the flying fish! They were plenty of them, leaping out of the water and jumping right back in, making it look like they were playing a game.
And then we heard someone say ‘’look!’’ and all of us turned in that direction. Around 40 feet away, we saw a blue whale break the surface and go back in, so slowly, majestically, plowing through the water, snorting a big blowhole. It reminded me of the cartoon, Tom & Jerry when Jerry gets shot out from the whale’s snout. Although, it was not funny this time. I was awestruck, dumbfounded by the size of this creature. Imagine the size of a jet plane? Could this mammal be approx 100 feet? Pretty much that. Then we spotted some happy, playful dolphins swim along the side of our boat and the kids went saying ’dolphinsssssssssss’. I looked at these playful creatures for a moment and went back to spot the whale. I spotted a few more in a span of one hour. Stomach was queasy with the boat ride but a heart filled with excitement nonetheless. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am glad I got on to that boat! Experience quoted by Bavani Srinu
If you want to know the best time to Visit Sri Lanka, check out this elaborate article that will help you plan your trip – Best time to Visit Sri Lanka.
Best Place to Watch Whales
What to expect
Start time & Duration
November – April
Blue Whales, Dolphins
3 – 5 hours with 1 hour stop to watch whales
6000 Sri Lankan Rupees
(includes light refreshment, bottle of water, pick up and drop to hotel)
June – October
Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, Dolphins, Turtles
Choose from 3 different cruises. 1 hour, 3 hours or 5 hours.
We opted for a company who believes in eco-friendly whale watching. They follow certain rules as a form of respect to these endangered species, the ocean, and the planet. If you are planning a trip, do not forget to ask these questions.
1. Do you maintain a good distance from whales?
2. Do you cross the whale´s course?
3. Do you reduce the boat speed to minimize the noise when you approach the whales?
4. Do you stop the engine if whales and dolphins come close to the boat?
5. Do you have strict rules of not throwing garbage into the ocean?
Passenger insurance is covered in the cost. Best would be to clarify before you book.
Things to carry
• Tablets for sea sickness easily
• A paper bag/cover in case you feel queasy
• Comfortable shoes
• A jacket just in case it gets cold
• Head cover
Some companies offer a complimentary trip the next day if you haven’t spotted any whales. Don’t be shy to clarify this upfront.
— Ichiqoo (@ichiqootravels) October 18, 2016