Whale watching in Mirissa | Sri Lanka

by Vanessa Wanders Miles
Blue whale tail in the air before it descends into the ocean off Mirissa in Sri Lanka

Blue whale breaching

Whales are deeply fascinating, almost mythical creatures, and one of the best places in the world to see them is off the coast of the small town of Sri Lanka. We got so many sightings when we went whale watching in Mirissa.

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Mirissa is on Sri Lanka’s south coast and is a tropical paradise with elegant curves of porcelain sand edged by lush jungle and a teal blue sea. Walking along the beaches and enjoying the idyllic setting is one way to spend your time in Mirissa. Surfers flock here to ride the surfable waves but between November and May, the vast majority of visitors to Mirissa are there to whale watch.

Perfect conditions for whale watching in Mirissa

The colour of the sea here is truly stunning but it’s the plankton in the water that makes it truly special. The consistently high levels of these nourishing teeny tiny creatures are irresistible to whales and dolphins which makes the chances of viewing them from a boat super high.

I travelled to Mirissa in February which is the perfect time to take advantage of calmer waters. Boats will take tourists out on the choppy water of other months but I would rather enjoy the magic of these incredible animals without being distracted by feeling like rubbish. Our lovely guides did, however, give us sea-sickness tablets to stash just in case we felt delicate.

How to spot the whales in Mirissa

We had four, maybe five, hours on board our little boat, and hopes and excitement were high of sightings and awesome photographs. Patience is much needed while waiting for the whales to appear but it’s good to know what to watch for. The first sign of whale activity is always a white fountain of water reaching high into the sky. This is a whale spurting water from its blow-hole in order to take a breath as it reaches the surface.

Blue whale spouting through blowhole in Mirissa

Blue whale spouting through blowhole

A blue whale can reach 30 metres in length so once they are on the surface their huge, dark-coloured bodies are easy to spot. They will float in view for a while taking in enough oxygen to survive up to 30 minutes underwater.

The most spectacular moment is when a hungry whale decides to head back to the depths to continue feeding. The elegant tail will rise out of the water and then disappear with a beautifully dramatic flourish and a splash. Exhilarating to watch!

Whale watching in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Whale tail

Watch the dolphins too!

On our trip we were also lucky enough to see many pods of Spinner dolphins. They are a small, thin, long nosed dolphin who are famous for their acrobatics. In fact, their name comes from the jump, soar and spin they execute high in the air. I loved watching them playing not far from our boat. Such fun to watch.

Pod of Spinner Dolphins off the coast of Mirissa in Sri Lanka

Pod of Spinner Dolphins

Practice responsible whale watching

Not all boat tours are equal however and it’s essential that visitors to Mirissa choose carefully. Many don’t treat the whales and dolphins with the care and respect they are due. Read the reviews of each trip you consider and check if they are following Project Blueprint. This is a project involving international conservation groups and local companies to promote sustainable, community-based whale watching that is safe for whales, dolphins, and passengers alike.

Whales are sensitive creatures and can find disturbance distressing. Distance, awareness of noise, time spent nearby and extra sensitivity towards mothers and babies are all carefully monitored by the boats and crew who care.

Heading out whale watching in Mirissa

On the whale watching boat in Mirissa


Tours for whale watching in Mirissa

Mirissa and the surrounding area are home to many boats and crews who are willing to take tourists out to sea to whale watch. Viator or GetYourGuide is the best place to search for trips. 

Where to stay in Mirissa

Sri Lanka is a gorgeous country and Mirissa is one of the most popular areas to visit. The whales, surf board-friendly waves, and stunning beaches in Mirissa are huge attractions to tourists from all over the world. Accommodation in Mirissa is plentiful with the choice of small quiet villas, large spa hotels, and locally run budget hotels and hostels.

Surf and Yoga is a chilled guest house with daily drop-in yoga classes, technical surf coaching, and a surf shop. The relaxed vibe makes for an awesome stay.

Handegedara Colonial Villa is a cosy property situated just 350 feet from Mirissa Beach. Guests can enjoy local Sri Lankan dishes at the in-house restaurant.

Somerset Mirissa is an 8-minute walk from Whale Watching Mirissa and provides a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, sun terrace, and barbecue facilities. It’s rated highly for couples.

Don’t forget travel insurance

With any holiday adventure, travel insurance should be a top priority! World Nomads is my go-to guys, I’ve learned this from experience. You can buy and claim online even when you’ve left home.  I love that they give a little back too and support community development projects in various countries.


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Lyn (aka) The Travelling Lindfields 12th May 2018 - 12:20 pm

II can’t say that I would ever have associated Sri Lanka with whale watching. We have whale watched in Australia and the US a lot. Now I will have to include Sri Lanka on our whale watching bucket list.

Mayuri 20th May 2018 - 12:03 am

What a beautiful article with tons of pictures!
I would love to visit Sri Lanka on one of my india trips
Thanks for sharing this

suedavies689 20th May 2018 - 1:39 am

Great photos. Been to Sri Lanka, but I didn’t go whale watching.

April Thompson 20th May 2018 - 2:45 am

I love this so much! Whale watching is so much more sustainable than going to a zoo or aquarium so I am in love with this 🙂 Looks like so much fun.

Emma 22nd May 2018 - 9:58 pm

I must do that next time I visit Sri Lanka !!! Hopefully in the coming months!! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Anjali Chawla 15th September 2018 - 2:54 pm

Great article with some lovely photographs, Vanessa! We visited Sri Lanka last year in September but missed whale watching because the season starts in November 🙁

Vanessa 15th September 2018 - 5:33 pm

Thank you, glad yopu enjoyed the article. It’s a shame you missed the whale watching, they really are beautiful animals to see!


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