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The whales of Mirissa, Sri Lanka

It took a while to come back on the blog. Too long.

So, I was picking through all the photographs that I saved from my recent trip to Sri Lanka and decided to tell you a little bit more about the whale watching business in Mirissa. I lived in the Maldives long enough to love every possible form of marine life and was lucky to swim with whale sharks now and then. But a whale is something else. After hearing about the resident whale population in Sri Lanka along the shores of Mirissa, I decided to give it a go during my trip.

Mirissa is a lively beach town in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka with plenty of low-priced accommodations, bars, and little shops. What I didn’t know is that there were tons of ‘operators’ selling ‘whale watching tours’ from the moment you arrive until you leave. I even made lots of researches on-line worrying that I wouldn’t be able to find the right place or pay the right price. What a waste of time.


The truth is that there is a price for locals and a price for tourists and if you let a ‘local friend’ buy a ticket for you in return of a little tip (and if you don’t tell anybody), you will get a good price.

Later when I was on the boat and asked few people, everybody around me seemed to have used the same system. So much with the *don’t tell anybody. I paid 2500rupees instead of 8000rupees and got my boat trip arranged.

mirissa harbor

6 am the meeting point at the harbor of Mirissa. That alone is quite a sight. Fishermen all around bringing back the catch of the morning, the sound of their voices calling the best bargain and a pungent smell of fresh fish mixed with the mist of the early hours. The boat crew gave me a life jacket and cruised out of the harbor towards Cape Weligama. A cup of tea, some water, and a little sandwich were served on the way out and just before I could take a little nap somebody screamed: Whales!


Lots of them, all around the boat.

Unfortunately many other boats were on the same mission and my idyllic moment with the whales was not as I thought it would be. Being a small boat, the crew did not let the passengers get up and take pictures at the same time on both sides, fearing capsizes. Too many boats all over and only a few minutes to spot the whales. Some boat got so close to the whales, apparently not allowed, that it was even harder to see them.


Somebody told me that tourists were not allowed to jump in the water and swim with the whales. However, two friends of mine found a compliant fisherman a few weeks later and got into the water with the whales. I don’t think I need to describe their experience.

Whale watching is certainly a great experience, but it can easily become a tourist trap, and it certainly need better supervision by local authorities.


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