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 Mirissa in Sri Lanka.
Mirissa is on Sri Lanka’s south coast and is a tropical paradise. Elegant curves of porcelain sand are edged by lush jungle and a teal blue sea. Surfers flock here to ride the surfable waves but between November and May but the vast majority of visitors to Mirissa are there to whale watch.
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 rubbish. Our lovely guides did, however, give us sea-sickness tablets to stash just in case we felt delicate.
How to spot the whales
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.
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!
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.
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.
What you need to know about Mirissa
Whale watching tour companies
Mirissa and the surrounding area is home to many boats and crews who are willing to take tourists out to sea to whale watch. The price, on average, is $30 per adult and $18 for children. TripAdvisor is the best place to search for trips, some of their top recommendations are the Whale Watching Club and Raju and the Whales.
Where to stay in Mirissa
Sri Lanka is a gorgeous country and Mirissa is one of the most popular areas to visit. The whales and the surf board friendly waves are a huge attraction 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 surf shop. The relaxed vibe makes for an awesome stay.
Handegedara Colonial Villa is a cosy property situated just 350 feet from the 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 adventures, travel insurance should be a top priority! World Nomads is my go-to guys, I’ve learnt 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.