Whale watching in Mirissa is one of the most popular tourist activity on the coasts of Sri Lanka through the months of November to April. The tours gained popularity due to regular sightings of Blue Whales – which are the largest mammals in the world. These waters are home to several other species of whales and during these tours, one can even spot dolphins, turtles, manta rays, flying fish, whale sharks and more. So, even though choppy waters and sea sickness were deterrents, I finally decided to give it a go.
Here are few tips for first time whale watchers which I wish I knew before embarking on the tour.
- Sea Sickness – Okay, So I have been on several cruises and 12 hour long boat rides. However, I wasn’t prepared for the choppy waters of the Bay of Bengal. I was sea sick almost immediately even though I took precautionary sickness medication. Throughout the 4+ hour journey, I was lying down to avoid throwing up. So, be prepared as you will be riding on rough seas and it can take 4-5 hours if you aren’t lucky enough to sight whales earlier. The boat companies have a refund policy in place (which I will discuss later) so, they put in umpteen efforts in order to sight whales. To avoid getting sick on board, don’t eat too much, take your meds and lay down as often as you can to minimize motion sickness.
- Early Start – Be prepared for an early start. Your best shot to see whales is early morning so wake up around 5, sleep in early the night before and be all fresh for your day out. You are to reach the Mirissa harbor at 6 am sharp. In most cases, your tour company will arrange pick up from your hotel – so check before hand and don’t miss your ride.
- Carry snacks – You get refreshments on board but carry some tit bits to avoid getting sick as you should have something light to munch on at all times – without filling your stomach completely.
- Carry good camera/ Binoculars – If you are lucky enough to sight whales, be sure to carry good camera to capute the shot. Sri Lanka boasts of several species of whales with blue whale and humpback, being the most popular. You wouldn’t want to miss this chance of a lifetime to capture them on film. Also carry good binoculars so you can zoom in and see these magnificent creatures glide effortlessly on the seas. You might even see dolphins, mantas & turtles, so the binos can come in handy.
- Refund policy – Be sure to ask your tour operator about the refund policy before booking your trip. 90% operators have a refund policy wherein you receive 50% money back (which is Srilanka Rupees 3000, full price is 6000 per adult) if you don’t sight whales or a chance to come back the next day, at no additional cost. For us, we just had one day at hand and sadly did not sight any whales – we got our 50% money back – Some consolation. We did see several dolphins and beautiful sea turtles so it wasn’t a complete waste.
Here is a shaky video of few lovely dolphins we spotted –
Sri Lanka is one of the most amazing holiday destinations I have ever visited as it has something for all kinds of tourists. If whale watching is not your cup of tea, opt for any of the umpteen beach, hill or city activities.