How to see whales in Sri Lanka

Whales in Sri Lanka: 4 places to watch whales migrating

Whales of Mirissa.

Whales in Sri Lanka are one of the most impressive attractions on the island. The town of Mirissa is the main mammal migration observation point. Read an in-depth review of the whale safari, observation season and tourist reviews.

Observation Season:

Price:

Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 8,000,000.

Whale Watching: Sri Lanka. Migration season, when to see whales

Tropics, beach, white sand and coconut palms is already an attractive and beautiful picture in itself that can be seen daily on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Sri Lanka. Is this enough to make your vacation enjoyable? Absolutely! Every day on the island is an amazing adventure that will be remembered for a long time. However, Sri Lanka is in a position to offer and activities that will leave a lasting, vivid impression for a lifetime, one of them – watching blue whales!

A trip into the open ocean, miles of water and meeting the largest mammal on our planet, the blue whale, this is what can really impress!

“A pleasure not for everyone,” as a guest of our website says, “It’s hard to watch whales for five hours when you’re seasick and all you want to do is feel the shore and ‘get firmly on your feet’ as soon as possible.”

Blue whale – wikipedia. What you can see during a safari

Wikipedia says that the blue whale (aka blue whale or blue striped whale) is the largest animal that exists in the world today. And there is a possibility that this “record” has never been broken, i.e. no larger animal has ever existed on our planet! The blue whale weighs about 150 tons (and can be measurably higher) and is about 33 meters long.

Blue whales

Incredibly large, massive, beautiful, yet harmless to humans sea animal. Despite its size, the blue whale feeds on plankton. A whale safari in Sri Lanka allows you to watch this process as a flock of whales in the open ocean move underwater, eating krill while surfacing periodically to draw air into their lungs.

In addition to blue striped whales on the boat you can see packs of dolphins, as well as sperm whales, fin whales and other representatives of cetaceans – about 26 species live near the coast of Sri Lanka, some of them can be watched during the safari.

Whale Safaris and Swimming with Whales, Where to See Them

You can see blue striped whales in Mirissa (near Hikkaduwa, Galle, Matara), in Kalpitiya (upper island, 135 km from Negombo) as well as in Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

Swimming with whales in Sri Lanka is a kind of chase. Several tourist boats go out into the ocean and move in different directions. The boats echo each other, relaying information about whale sightings. As soon as one boat spots a “fish” in the water, all the water safari hunters immediately head for the designated route. Such searches sometimes take several hours. A lot depends on chance and luck.

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The sea departure starts early in the morning (from 6-8 a.m.), although there are companies offering the trip in the afternoon, when the sun is brighter and there are fewer boats on the water.

The duration of the safari is 3 to 8 hours!

How it works:

  1. You choose the company with which you arrange to go out to sea. While in Mirissa, many tourists give preference to “Raja & Whales”, as it is the only company in town that has official permission to go to the ocean in the border waters. That said, the ticket price is 2-3 times higher than competing firms. This is not a recommendation, as reviews of Raja & Whales are mixed. But it should be appreciated that the certified agency is responsible for its actions, careful and gentle approach to the whales, so as not to injure or frighten the animal. And generally respectful of the ocean and its inhabitants.
  2. Morning assembly on the ocean shore – the assistant captain forms the group. Tells about precautions and about the excursion in general.
  3. Breakfast, which includes tea, cookies and fresh fruit. Breakfast can take place either ashore or at the beginning of the excursion on the water.
  4. The assistant captain offers motion sickness pills. Extended time on the water can be difficult to tolerate, even for those who have never felt discomfort in any land or air transport. Attention should be paid to those who suffer from seasickness – has a weak vestibular apparatus. The pill does a good job, however, no one can guarantee a great feeling of well-being.
  5. Going out into the ocean. The search for whales begins. The boat moves through the water in different directions – in the blue whales’ habitat.
  6. A snack during the search.
  7. As soon as your boat or a nearby excursion spot whales, all the action is to get as close as possible. The rest is up to your luck: some groups may see whales up close, even capturing their leap! Some are content to see the blue whale underwater, or catch a glimpse of its tail and a jet of water.

In sunny weather there is every chance to see the giant mammals and get to know them better. While the boat is moving there may be flocks of dolphins, large turtles, sperm whales.

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During storm and rainy weather it is not recommended to go to the ocean, even if the captain insists on the contrary. Practice shows that in such weather it is difficult to find mammals and difficult to see them.

Price: the cost of the excursion

Prices vary depending on the location of the tour: Mirissa, Kalpitiya, Trincomalee or Batticaloa. Also the cost is different in competing companies located in the same resort, regardless of the service and entertainment program.

Approximate price of a whale safari in Sri Lanka: from 2000 rupees to 8000 rupees. In this case, the service can be at the same level. Moreover, there is no guarantee that you will see 100% of the whales. Sometimes there are reviews in which travelers claim that after 5-6 hours of observation, they never saw whales.

Minuses and pluses, what to expect?

  1. The main disadvantage is motion sickness. If you are not sure that you can stay on the water for a long time, then do not refuse the pill that will be offered at the beginning of the trip. You can buy such pills in your home country, pay attention to the drug Dramina, which copes well with seasickness. The pills cause a little drowsiness. Although bright emotions and adrenaline quickly cover this reaction.
  2. The second disadvantage is the absence of a guarantee to see whales. Even with ideal weather and absolute confidence of the captain in good outcome of water excursion, it is possible not to find whales. It happens not often, but it is impossible to deny the phenomenon. It is difficult to judge who is to blame here, because the main organizer is the nature, and it is difficult to be offended on it. In such cases, all claims are made to the company and the boat captain, who is not too guilty. Some agencies refund 50% of the trip cost – if you do not see whales.
  3. The third disadvantage, as well as a plus – prices. The high price does not mean anything. Different companies may offer the same conditions (transfers, breakfast, tablets, safari duration), while the price will differ by 2 or 3 times. Before you buy excursions, read reviews, and if possible, ask local acquaintances who you think may not have a benefit in this case.
  4. Fourth disadvantage. Not all tour companies are certified, which means they don’t understand or know how to properly handle sea life. Boats can get too close to whales, trying to drive them between vessels to get a closer look at the animal. This causes stress to the whales, and moreover, the boat’s motor can cause serious injury to them!
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Whale Migration Season in Sri Lanka

Whale watching season depends on the time of year. In the summertime it is the east coast: Trincomalee and Batticaloa. In fall, winter and early spring it is west of Ceylon: Kalpitiya and Mirissa.

Mirissa is most popular with tourists.

During the whale migration period, the mammals’ path runs from the African continent to Sri Lanka and India, whose shores are washed by the Bay of Bengal. Therefore, it is possible to witness the movement of blue striped whales from various points (resorts on the island). The whales move at a distance of 5-10 km from the shore and locals and tourists can easily watch the action on the deck of a small boat.

Reviews

Were you on a whale safari? What were your impressions, did you manage to see whales up close? How was your “boat trip”? Leave your feedback in the comments, to help other travellers plan their holidays and tours!

Whales in Hikkaduwa

A frequent question from site subscribers is, can I see whales in Hikkaduwa?

No, the blue whale migration route goes through Mirissa (60 km from Hikkaduwa). And also in other parts of the island – Kalpitiya (280 km), Trincomalee (365 km), Batticaloa (400 km).

The resort of Hikkaduwa is famous for other activities: surfing, wide beach, feeding wild turtles, snorkeling, coral reserve.

How to see whales in Sri Lanka

“The fins beat the wave and go deep.” Learn how to swim to blue whales in Sri Lanka, how much a whale safari costs, where to buy a tour and what you need to know. Read our review!

Whale hunting used to be a commercial hunt, now it’s a tourist hunt. We really wanted to see these huge and kind animals, so we went to Mirissa – it is considered one of the best places to watch blue whales in Sri Lanka and in the world in general. We were there in March.

Look for hotels in Sri Lanka on Rumguru – there you can find options with discounts.

Exchange rate: 100 Sri Lankan rupees (LKR) ≈ 70 rubles.

Where to buy a safari tour in Mirissa

Whale safaris in Mirissa are offered by many companies and hotels. But the #1 company on TripAdvisor is Whale Watching Club Mirissa . They have rave reviews, read it for yourself. Plus our acquaintances were already sailing with them, so we chose them too.

The WWC has plenty of advantages:

  • They don’t think about time – if the whales are far away, the safari can take up to 10 hours total (although that’s a minus for sea-sickness sufferers). Normal safari time is 2-6 hours.
  • They are not limited to 1-2 whales – you are guaranteed to see a lot of whales and definitely get good shots.
  • Only 35 people are taken on board, although the capacity is up to 60. So you won’t be looking at the backs of people’s heads, but at whales. You can move freely around the deck.
  • The staff is courteous and helpful, always helpful.
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We are completely satisfied with their excursion.

How to see whales in Sri Lanka

The captain, our captain!

How much is the excursion

Whale Watching Club has a tour price of 8,500 rupees per person (5,000 per tour + 3,500 state tax on foreigners), that is a total of $47 per person. For children it is 4,500 rupees. This price includes:

  • transfer – one tuk-tuk ride;
  • tea or coffee before the swim;
  • Seasickness pill;
  • three meals on board.

whale watching tour reviews

Our ship and other excursion boats ahead. On the upper deck, the view seems to us to be better.

How the safari goes.

If you live in Mirissa, a tuk-tuk will pick you up for free from your hotel. The driver was waiting for us at the gate at 5:30. At the office we checked in and had tea. Then an employee takes passengers to the ship in small groups – the earlier you arrive, the earlier you get on board.

At 6:00, the departure time. We were the first to cast off. Almost immediately they bring breakfast – a sandwich with an egg, lettuce, sausage, a slice of pineapple and a 0.5 liter bottle of water. Then they serve watermelons and pineapple. On the way back they give a roti, a bottle of Coke and a coconut.

We saw the first whale very early – he waved his tail at us. This is amazing! It’s very hard to imagine such a megalomaniac underwater. Mostly there is a small species of blue whale – you can recognize it by the notch on the tail.

whales in sri lanka

You will see enough of whale’s backs.

We got to the main whale location at about 9:00. “The captain looks out. He sees a fountain gushing into the sea.” The whale breathes, a fountain of spray rises into the air several times. Then the race begins: all the ships and boats rush toward the whale. Then the whale goes under the water for 10-20 minutes. During this time, the captain tries to predict the whale’s trajectory and swim to the place where it will swim next time. He enjoys each whale like a child – much more than the rocking-weary tourists. You can’t help charging with his energy, cheerfulness and excitement!

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We saw a lot of whales – we lost count. On the way back we met an amusing sea turtle – it posed for a long time and mischievously looked at the tourists. Then there was an invasion of miniature spinner dolphins. More than a hundred graceful dolphins were hunting, jumping out of the water right in front of the boat. There were so many that the water seemed to be bubbling. That’s where the excitement was!

At about 11:00 we arrived at the port. It was a little sad to go back, we wanted to spend more time at sea.

whale watching tour in sri lanka

The dolphins we had seen on the whale safari.

What to expect.

You have to understand that whales don’t swim close or jump out of the water. Mostly you’ll see a “geyser,” a whale’s back and, if you’re lucky, a tail. But even this is enough to appreciate the size and to be impressed – especially if the whale is very close.

Dolphins, on the other hand, gracefully jump out and swim merrily racing the boat. A turtle also doesn’t mind swimming nearby.

There will be a lot of rocking, sometimes so much that the stomach wants to jump out. There will be wind and sun in the face, salt spray, whales sighing and snorting!

whale watching in sri lanka

The limit of dreams is to see a whale tail. If you are lucky, you will see it a couple of times during the tour. Photo: Davide Dalfovo / unsplash.com.

Tips

Go on safari without high expectations – you may not see whales. If you don’t see them, WWC offers to go on safari again for free the next day. No refunds.

Book your excursion in advance. Contact the guys by mail or Facebook – there are contacts on their website at whalewatchingclub.com. They’ll notify you of any changes, if any. For example, our tour was rescheduled by one day.

We sat on the upper deck – probably the best places to see whales. You can see everything well from the top. Try to get there early to get to the top, or ask the staff to do so.

If you’re seasick (and even if you’re not), take a pill an hour before you set sail. There can be big waves in the open ocean. If anything, the staff has special packets. We were lucky – the waves were small and only one person got seasick.

It is best not to have a big breakfast and drink a lot of water so you don’t get seasick.

On board be careful – the rocking is strong, you can fall, hit or drop equipment.

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