The popularity of whale watching holidays which takes place in the thrilling open sea, provides spectacular scenery of these magnificent cetaceans mammals. The island of Sri Lanka has long been a hotspot for whales and dolphins, in 1979 a part of Indian Ocean in which the country is situated was declared as a protected zone be the International Whaling Commission.

Whale watching is a truly amazing adventure, enjoyable yet educational. A once in it life time experience that provides opportunity to see different species of whales concentrated in a particular area, mother and calves or whole families at play. Whale spotting is an art of its own, in which patience and keenness in scanning the open sea is needed. Identifying the whale species is a big challenge to the watchers, due to the submerged parts of the body. The shape of the tails or flukes and dorsal fins as well as the general body shape helps in distinguishing the species.

Whale watching in Sri Lanka has historically largely focused on Trincomalee, a destination that has not been very accessible in recent years due to the conflict. However, this activity recently received a boost with the identification of another cetacean hot-spot: the South coast of Sri Lanka, off Mirissa, in December and April, is possibly one of the best places and times to spot Blue Whales in the world, where they are presumably in migration from their feeding grounds off Trincomalee to the feeding grounds in the Arabian Sea. The narrow continental shelf in this area means you can see the largest animal alive in the world today even while your boat is in sight of land!

Whale watching is possible on the west and south west coast from November to March (avoiding the monsoon, where the oceans are too rough) and off Trincomalee from June to September.

Whale and Dolphin watching is a seasonal activity and sightings are certain on the west coast in locations from Kalpitiya which is a lesser known paradise within a paradise, its natural beauty, close knit fishing community, fresh sea food, The accommodations available at Alankuda, the Bar reef, the Dutch Fort and St.Peter’s Kirk Church provide interesting and varied possibilities for the visitor. Whale & dolphin watching tours could be arranged in Kalpitiya and the ideal season is November to April. Whale and dolphin sightings are additionally available in the western coastal cities of Aluthgama, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa. Sri Lanka is situated within the International Whaling Commission’s protected zone in the Indian Ocean. The above areas have an abundance of hotels which provide the necessary accommodation.

Five species of Baleen Whales and 22 species of Toothed Whales and Dolphins have been recorded in the Sri Lankan waters. Of these 8 or more species of the latter groups of cetaceans are encountered out at sea regularly.

Of the above occurring cetaceans we often encounter Blue and Sperm Whales on pelagic excursions. Large pods of Long-snouted Spinner Dolphins are met with, and on occasion these parties include other species of dolphins such as Bottle-nosed, Risso’s, Striped and Spotted. For more information

Species Regular Often Occasional Rare
Blue whale *
Fin whale *
Brydes whale *
Minky whale *
Humpback whale *
Sperm whale *
Pygmy Sperm whale *
Dwarf Sperm whale *
Cuvier`s beaked whale *
Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale *
Blainville`s Beaked whale *
Southern bottlenose whale *
Killer whale  *
False killer whale *
Pygmy killer whale *
Melon headed whale *
Short-finned pilot whale *
Risso’s dolphin *
Rough-toothed dolphin *
Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin *
Bottlenose dolphin *
Common dolphin *
Fraser’s dolphin *
Long snouted Spinner dolphin *
Pantropical spotted dolphin *
Striped dolphin *
Finless porpoise *


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