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Sri Lanka: Mirissa whale watching

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Mirissa whale watching > Sri Lanka > Asia

[Visited: March 2019]

When we walk into the office in Mirissa, we see a sign on the wall saying the ocean will be rough today, and we are offered free seasickness pills when we buy our tickets to go whale-watching. I remember a whale-watching tour many years before, on the rough seas off New Zealand, and doubt whether it is a good idea to go at all: with a bouncing boat, much of the fun of whale-watching is gone. Our new friends are waiting on the boat and have occupied two seats, and when we sail away, the sea is calm. Soon enough, we spot big groups of spinner dolphins, and everyone is excited to see the speed and ease with which they effortlessly glide through the ocean. They become even more active when another boat approaches, and we see them jump the bow waves, and sometimes jump straight up into the air. A fantastic sight.

Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Diving blue whale showing its impressive tail

While we continue our search for the blue whale, the staff give us a briefing about these enormous animals, their history of being hunted almost to extinction, the accidents with big ships that still causes even the biggest whales to die, explaining the differences between the various types of whales swimming around the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, they even serve a surprisingly good breakfast with fried eggs, fresh fruit, and drinks. But time is ticking, and when I look ahead, to the horizon, I suddenly get the feeling that we might not see any whale at all. Yes, the mammals are enormous, but compared to the ocean, they are smaller than a fly in a room. Plus: they spend much of their time deep down, where we will never see them. Then, suddenly, one of the crew screams that he has seen the spray of a whale, and while no one of the passengers sees it even with binoculars, the captain steers us towards the spot further east.

Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Spray of a blue whale off the coast of southern Sri Lanka

It takes perhaps ten minutes before we also see the animal. It is a blue whale, and when we get closer, we clearly see its dark back protruding from the waves. He blows another spray into the air, and then one of the crew says he is about to dive. Just in time for us to see its back disappear, lifting its huge tai into the air for a perfect fluke. It can dive down to 1000 metres, but in the end, always comes back. Indeed, while we still reel from the sight of the mighty mammal, we see another fountain of water being blown into the air, and again watch the blue whale at the surface. We try to imagine its length; according to the crew, this is not a small one and might be 20 metres long. It dives again, comes back to the surface, and every time it does, we are all excited, judging from the screams of joy. When we finally make our way back to Mirissa, we see one more whale, as a kind of dessert, before we reach shore. All the time, the sea has been especially calm.

Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Dolphins playing near the bow of a boat
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Blue whale at the surface of the ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Surfacing blue whale in the ocean off the southern coast of Sri Lanka
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Blue whale with spray off the coast of southern Sri Lanka
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Part of a big group of  spinner dolphins swimming towards our boat
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Spinner dolphins jumping out of the sea
Picture of Mirissa whale watching (Sri Lanka): Spinner dolphins swimming and jumping towards our boat

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