Mirissa is a small fishing town in Sri Lanka which is known for its whale watching tours and serene beaches among tourists.
Mirissa is a fishing town that is located in the Southern part of mighty Sri Lanka. The town is especially known for its delicious food, beaches, and whale watching. Once you head to Mirissa, the gentle yet magnificent giants of the Indian Ocean will greet you with warmth. However, it is advisable to not go very close to the aquatic creatures.
Adventurers can indulge in scuba diving on the beach. There are many tour operator who would be happy to book the Whale Watching Mirissa tour for you. You can also ask the hotel staff to book a tour for you! Ideally, opt for a legit tour operator because there are many amateurs out there.
How to Reach Mirissa?
Travellers can opt for bus, cab, or train to head to Mirissa. As soon as you reach Colombo airport, you will be 3 hours away from the fishing town. Taking a cab is the most convenient form of travelling because travellers get tired after a long flight.
Taking a Cab – Uber cabs are available in Mirissa. You just need internet connection on your phone and the application to book a cab. You can also hire a private cab from the airport. Colombo airport has many private cab services.
Taking a Bus – Head to Katunayake Airport Bus Station and buy bus tickets. Exo3 and Bus No. 187 head to Mirissa. It is the cheapest way to reach Mirissa. However, it will take about 4-5 hours to reach the final destination. The good part is that you will get a seat in the bus!
Taking the train – Head to Colombo Fort Station and take a second class/third class train ticket. This is another way to travel cheap. It takes about 5 hours to reach Mirissa by train.
Best Time To Head To Mirissa
The ideal time to see whales is from November to December and from March to April. Anytime between November to April is good time to watch the whales. This is the peak season and the weather is pleasant too.
Sri Lanka experiences two monsoons and one must avoid travelling during this time.
1. The water is turbulent and choppy during monsoon season.
2. May to October is supposed to be off season. Whales are rarely spotted!
Hence, you should plan the tour from November to April. Start your day early in the morning and you will have a number of activities throughout. There is so much to do in Sri Lanka! You can also indulge in scuba diving or head to Kalpitiya for a dolphin spotting tour.
As for the whale spotting tour, sperm whales are most commonly spotted. The blue whale (the largest mammal in the world), the Minke whale (or Sharp-nosed whale), the melon-headed whale and the dwarf sperm whale are also visible.
If we talk about the best timing for whale watching, then you must start early in the morning. 6 AM to 7 AM is the best time to head out for a whale watching expedition. Afternoon is not the best time to explore Mirissa because the water gets rough and the heat may not be bearable for travellers.
Anything between 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM should be avoided as the water gets choppy and rough.
Wake up early in the morning, watch the sunrise, get closer to the whales, and enjoy a happy breakfast after the tour. Fill your tummy with some Hopper, Dahl, and delicious curries. Even South Indian breakfast is available in many restaurants!
Let’s cut to the chase and find out what type of whales you can find in Sri Lankan waters!
Whales In Mirissa
- Blue Whale
Watching a blue whale come out of the water is an incredible sight. The 150-ton whale, about 30 meters long, emerges its huge baleen and the upper part of its head, takes a great inspiration by projecting, through its vent, the water it has accumulated, before diving again and continuing its journey. Due to its status as the largest animal recorded today, the blue whale remains queen during these marine excursions.
Please know a blue whale is quite gigantic! Line up a jeep and three buses and you get a blue whale. Did you know that a blue whale can eat 3500 kg(s) of krill a day? Since the body size is massive, the whale needs a lot more food. However, do not commit the mistake of feeding the whales. There is plenty of fish in the sea for them to feed on!
Despite the large size, the Blue Whale can swim quite fast! In just one hour, they can travel up to 30 kilometers. A Blue Whale can live up to 90 years, and they swim in groups. Mostly, the fishes in the sea like to remain in their social group. Perhaps it is the best way to protect oneself, or they like being social.
As per research, fishes swim together so that there is less friction and no extra energy is expended. When it is dinner time for fishes, it is easier to find food in a social group! Well, we just explained you how a fish socializes. It is interesting to know about the social behavior of aquatic creatures!
- Minke whale
It is the most common whale along the Sri Lankan coast, especially in summer. You will often have the chance to observe it during your safaris, because this Minke whale likes to follow the boats. It is the smallest representative of its species, with a height of 7 to 10 m and a weight of 8 to 10 ton. The Minke Whale has Baleen Plates and not teeth. If you see a comb, you would be able to make out what Minke Whale’s teeth looks like!
- Melon-Headed Whale
It is a rare type of whales worldwide. Its dorsal fin of the hybrid resembles that of a melon-headed whale. The upper half of her body is light grey, which makes her think closely. It is dark in color but not black, with a darker “saddle” well distinct below the dorsal, preceded by a dark “cape” on the top of the back.
- Dwarf Sperm Whale
Its rounded snout at the young age becomes square with age. A long white mark binds the eye to the pectoral making it like a «hearing» giving it a shark look. We note the presence of one or more furrows under the throat. Finally its vent as in the other sperm whales is located slightly on the left. It is about 2.20 m to 2.7 m long and weighs around 150-250 kg. Sperm whales eat octopus. Funny thing is that Blue Whales are larger in size, but they feast on smaller creatures like the Krill.
This whale is little active; we often see it on the surface, exposing out of the water the top of its body from the snout to the fin. Its body is then broken with a caudal sometimes up to the vertical. Under the impact of fear, it expels a brown-red cloud of feces (feces) stored in their voluminous rectal bulb.
Where Else Can You Spot Whales In Sri Lanka?
Apart from Mirissa, you can also head to Trincomalee for a whale spotting tour. Once again, November to April is the best time to head to Trincomalee. You can also visit Trincomalee from May to October. Since this is in the North-East part of Sri Lanka, it experiences a different monsoon season. It is easy to spot Blue Whale, Killer Whale, Sperm Whale, and Brydes Whale here.
What Should You Carry For Your Whale Watching Tour?
Remember how your mother used to pack some snacks in the bag for a school picnic?Well, we are going to tell you what you need to carry for the whale watching tour.
- Backpack – Carry a backpack as its portable and has enough space to keep all your belongings.
- Sun lotion – Just in case the sun shines too bright, apply enough sun lotion to keep your skin protected.
- Water – Although some tour operators offer water onboard, but carry an extra portable water bottle with you.
- Hat/Cap – Protect your face from direct sunlight. Since you will be going on a cruise, a hat or a cap is recommended.
- Swimsuit – Just in case your tour operator decides to anchor the boat/cruise on the edge! You can take a quick swim. Ask your tour operator if they can include a snorkel trip after watching the whales.
- Sunglasses – Avoid looking at the sun and protect your eyes. The glare can be damaging for eyes! Plus, the sunglasses look great, especially when you click pictures.
As for the food, you can have some light snacks before starting. Some tour operators offer breakfast onboard. You can check the package! There are whale watching cruises wherein the chef prepares delicious meals for the guests. It all depends on what type of whale watching tour you are booking.
Just as a bonus, we will conclude with some tips to have a fantastic tour. As a responsible traveler, you must follow all the tips. Everyone wants to have a great tour, right?
- Life jackets will be provided onboard. Make sure the tour operator/cruise/boat driver gives you a life jacket to wear. This is important for both swimmers and non swimmers.
- Wear flat shoes because you need to get on the cruise and perhaps walk on a plank too. Being comfortable during the tour is important! The flat shoes are slip-resistant. Plus, wear clothes that are water-proof. Carry a swimsuit just in case you wish to swim after the tour.
- The gigantic cetaceans are about 200 tons in weight and 30 meters long in height. You must respect the rules of the ocean! Never get closer to the aquatic creatures. Always respect that the ocean is their habitat!
- You can also watch dolphins in Mirissa. If the tour operator is knowledgeable, they will offer you the best tour of your life!
- Usually, a cruise consists of 30-35 people. You must check with the tour operator about the inclusions and exclusions.
- Never try to touch the aquatic creatures. They may seem friendly, but they are out in the wild. Maintaining a safe distance is important. Also, whales are getting extinct, it is advisable to take proper care and not scare away the whales. Ask the boat/cruise driver to NOT speed the boat/cruise. Speeding towards the aquatic creatures is not advisable.
- When you spot whales, maintain silence and enjoy the beauty of the gigantic creature.
Whale watching Mirissa is a must-do! However, there are certain behavioural patterns of tourists and cruise ships that are unacceptable. Considering the ocean belongs to the aquatic creatures, one must respect it. Before embarking on tourist ships, it is necessary to inform on the behaviour to adopt in front of the aquatic creatures such as cetaceans and blue whales in particular.
On 6 September 2012, the Sri Lankan government published a Charter (in English) outlining the rules to be followed in order not to disrupt the health and natural cycle of the animal. While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the conservation status of the Humpback Whale to be of minimal concern (lowest level), the Blue Whale is considered at risk of extinction.
The charter stipulates, for example, that vessels permitting the observation of cetaceans must have a licence issued by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, a public institution, and a registration number visible at 50 metres. These tourist boats can’t get within 100 metres of the whales to observe them, and are only allowed to sail between 5:30 am and 5:00 pm. They must not, in any case, disturb the trawlers set out for fishing at that time.
Some forty rules similar to these are enshrined in the charter. So, do not hesitate to seek advice from your agency regarding these excursion conditions!
In general, whether it’s on the South, East or West coast, you can observe marine mammals all year round in Sri Lanka! It is the ideal place to realize your dreams of children and to meet these marine mammals.