Watching blue whales and dolphins in Mirissa is a truly unique experience. We went during the whale watching season which is between November and June.
Whale watching is particularly big with the 3 countries who are unfortunately pro whale hunting: Japan, Norway and Iceland.
We encountered this in Tokyo last year when we entered a ‘whale bar’ by accident.
We’ve since been more curious about whales, so we jumped at the chance to see these magnificent endangered species in the flesh at Mirissa in Sri Lanka.
On board and ready for some whale spotting
WHALE WATCHING SEASON IN THE WEST COAST
The whale watching season in Mirissa in the the west coast of Sri Lanka runs from from November to April / May, as during the rest of the year, the waters will be too rough because of the Monsoon.
The best place to spot whales is in Mirissa, a small tourist town on Sri Lanka’s south coast, popular for surfing and famous for whale watching. The waters around Mirissa are particularly rich in plancton (a groop of mirco organisms whales feed on), which lead scientists to believe there is a resident population always present which will result in sightings whenever conditions are good, particularly between November to April.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GO WHALE WATCHING?
Which company to choose?
There are a huge choice of whale watching tour companies in Mirissa, and all of them charge more or less the same price. Choose the company carefully because not all of them care about the animals and some will even get real you close to the whales, causing a lot of stress to the poor Cetacean.
TripAdvisor will help you find the best companies out there. If you plan to go from Galle to Mirissa, you should take advantage of that whale watching cruise which will take you to Mirissa while living an incredible experience.
The price of a whale watching tour
As with most tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, prices have been increasing a lot over the years. A whale watching safari was around 6,000 Sri Lanka rupees (around $42 / £30) per person when we went. We decided this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, which if done in somewhere like Canada, New Zealand or Europe would be a lot more expensive.
Responsible whale watching tourism
Companies who care about the well-being of the whales are committed to responsible whale watching and abide by the criteria set by the WDCS (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society).
We decided to take a morning tour with Raja & the Whales, who we found on TripAdvisor, and also filled the WDC requirements.
The tour itself involved a 1 hour early morning boat ride from 6:30am out into the Indian Ocean where the whales are known to be feeding. If you go during the whale watching season, your chances of seeing a whale are quite high (90-95%) and if not, most companies promise to re book your tour (for free).
SPOTTING BLUE WHALES AND DOLPHINS IN MIRISSA
We were lucky to spot several Blue Whales and dolphins on our tour, along with the money shot of them diving back down:
Blue whales are the largest creatures on earth, measuring up to 30 metres in length, and luckily enough for you, they live only a few miles off the South Coast of Sri Lanka.The art to spotting the whales comes down to mastering their breathing behaviour.
Whales are mammals so they have lungs instead of fish gills for breathing. Therefore, they cannot breath underwater and need to come up for air.
Blue whales can hold their breath underwater for an average 30 minutes before they have to surface for air. They don’t have a nose and can’t breath through their mouth so rely on their blow-holes. When they surface, they spout the air (and lots of water with it) out of their blow-hole.
This is the first sign to look out for:
A whale breathing out with a squirt of water through its blow hole is the first sign to look for
They then stay onshore dipping in and out of the water, around 3-4 times, breathing in and out:
Whale on the water surface taking a few breaths before getting ready for the big dive down
Finally, they take one last long breath before making that beautiful dramatic money shot dive back down to look for food:
The dramatic whale dive back down to look for food before it will resurface after around 30 minutes
As with all safaris, whale watching is a waiting game and a test of patience. A good company will know the signs to look out for and the optimum spots for whale sightings.
As with all safari, patience is the key
Along the way we spotted these cute Bottlenose and Spinner dolphins
IS IT WORTH DOING A WHALE WATCHING SAFARI ?
In our opinion, yes!
Our whale watching selfie – two excited Nomadic Boys after seeing several Blue Whales diving
For us, on a backpacker budget, it was a bit of a splurge, but an unforgettable one. We’d never experienced whale watching before and learnt a great deal about these magnificent creatures.
You won’t get up close to the whales as this is discouraged by environmentally minded companies to avoid disturbing the whales. So there are no swimming/snorkelling opportunities with the whales.
The cherry on the cake was seeing these two very cute turtles making out on the return leg:
We also spotted these two cute turtles mating on the water surface