Mary Ann Issac
Whale watching in Sri Lanka- everything you should know!
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
I was eagerly looking forward to the Whale watching experiment in Mirissa, after seeing pictures & reading reviews online. I was in Sri Lanka in December, which is the season to spot the whales, so I felt my chances were pretty good.
I was staying in Weligama and the boats were to leave from Mirissa harbour. Mirissa is a 10 minute car ride from Weligama, so we got a cab around 5AM to Mirissa. From the office of Rajah & the Whales (the tour company that I booked with for the experience) we were guided into our boats.
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-Take medication for seasickness before travel/ as prescribed by your physician, because once you have set sail, there is no coming back until the end of the trip- so come prepared.
-Always wear your life jackets
-Check if the tour company allows toddlers/infants to go on board before you book.
-Charge your camera batteries- it’s going to be a long day with lots of clicking.
-Bring snacks for yourself & your kids (most tour operators keep you fed with snacks during the trip-it is best to check with the tour company about their policies.
I get sea sick quite easily, so I had taken the required medication before getting on the boat. Though I still felt really queasy for quite some time on the boat. But after I reluctantly ate the food that was served to us, I slowly started to get better.
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Watch a beautiful sunrise in the open waters
We got into our boat before sunrise, so it was a stunning sight to see the horizon light up with shades of yellow and orange with the rising sun. It was my first time ever seeing a sun rise in the open waters, and it truly was a magnificent sight!
The crew ensured that we were all wearing our life jackets throughout the trip, which I thought was very efficient on their part.
They also kept all of us fed throughout the journey. They gave us a breakfast of eggs & fruit, and later other snacks & juices.
The staff give you a short safety demonstration, and also explain with printed material the different type of whales that are in the area, and how to identify them.
The staff were on the lookout for the whales, and because of their experience they can spot it from miles away.
Check out my guide to Weligama Beach
Once a whale is spotted, we sped towards it and got as close as we safely could.
Now this is quite interesting to watch- it’s never just one boat out in the sea looking for the whales. It is the tourist season, so there are at least 3 other boats trying to find the whales as well, so once one boat starts racing towards a direction, all the others start doing the same!
How long does What watching take?
Whale watching is a game of luck, and it may take anywhere between 3-6 hours. It was almost 6 hours for me. The journey into the open waters takes about an hour, after which we waited around to spot the whale. Once we spot a whale, the boat follows it to as close as it can safely go for us to have a look.
So keep aside half a day if you want to go whale watching. It does help that you get such an early start, so you still have the rest of the day even if you’ve just spent 6 hours on a boat.
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It's a waiting game
Once we have spotted the whale from a close distance, we follow it around at a safe distance to see if he/she will jump up and grace us with her presence. It is only a lucky few who get to see the whale in all its glory. We saw only his tail and the top of his head. We spent a lot of time waiting and following him around to see if he would come out of the water, but alas, it was just not meant to be.
Other marine life we spotted on the trip
We did see a couple of dolphins and also a pair of sea turtles mating, which was interesting to watch, but it felt to me like we were invading their privacy! :P We were stopped near the turtles for a good 5-10 minutes for all of us to get a good view.
We finally headed back to shore, super exhausted, and extremely excited to finally get off the boat!
What if you don't have a good camera to capture the whales in action?
After the trip, the tour company sent pictures of the whale that they took with their professional cameras to our emails. So even if you don’t have the best camera to capture the wildlife, fret not! I don’t know if all tour companies do this, best to check with the one that you are booking with.
My sea sickness finally took its leave after the first couple of hours, which was a blessing, otherwise this would have been an unbearable trip for me.
Overall, it was a good trip, but I’m not sure if I would wake up at 4.30AM and spend 6 hours on a boat to do this all over again. Maybe after a few years, I may change my mind, and give my luck a try, but for now, I’ve had enough of being on a boat!
But I assume it is a completely thrilling experience for those who love being in the water, and love seeing wildlife in its natural habitat.
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Do give this experience a try, & let me know if you were luckier than I was in spotting the ever elusive whale!
Best time to spot whales in Sri Lanka
In Mirissa a south western coastal town in Sri Lanka, the best time to spot whales is: November -April
If you are in Sri Lanka after April, you can spot the whales in Trincomalee as the whales migrate towards that side.
In Trincomalee, a north eastern coastal town in Sri Lanka, the best time to spot whales is:
Drop me a comment below to tell me bout your experience!