The golden sandy shores extending miles and miles makes the emerald isle, Sri Lanka, one of the very unique places in the world. Along with that, the incredible food, tea plantations, and wondrous ancient sites that date back more than 2500 years make the only country with so much diversity in a tiny bit of land. Tourists have things to do for a lifetime in Sri Lanka. Out of hundreds of ideas, whale watching in Sri Lanka is very popular.
Whale Watching in Sri Lanka
As you all know, the blue whale is the largest animal in the world. It is bigger than an elephant. Just imagine a fish larger than an elephant gliding right beneath you, how exciting will it be? Definitely, it should be in your bucket list.
Other than the blue whale, there are several other types of whales called humpback whale , sperm whale, Bryde’s whale, short finned whales, and Fin whales. You also can see dolphins as well. If you are lucky, you will even see killer whales and whale shark which are very rare.
Sometimes the tourists will get to see sea turtles and flying fish as well.
I should tell you that seeing whales takes a little bit of luck as well because they are not always at the surface of the ocean. Also, timing is critical if you are going to watch whales. You can see them only for a few hours in the day. However, the whale watching tour guides know these details. They will most probably tell when you should start the trip to the ocean.
Top 3 Whale Watching Spots in Sri lanka
In Sri Lanka, there are three spots where the whales are visible.
- Near Mirissa (Southern coast)
- Trincomalee (East coast)
- Kalpitiya (West coast)
The places given above are the names of towns closest to the places where you can witness whales. The whale watching tours start from these places. You have to travel into the ocean for at least half to one hour to reach the area where you can find whales.
The illustration given below shows you where precisely these said locations are.
Whale Watching in Mirissa
Mirissa in on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
Mirissa is not a place that is popular for whale watching among tourists. It is much popular because of its pristine beach. Its very picturesque and attractive. Although, it is not very popular for whale watching, it is the best spot out of the three to watch whales in Sri Lanka.
As I told you before, the whales never come close to Mirissa beach. Whale watching from Mirissa is a half an hour trip into the ocean. Mirissa harbor is the place where you can find tour boats to reach into the sea.
Similarly, there are two other spots where you can find boat services with tour guides who offer whale watching expeditions. You can access to this exact geographical location in the ocean from Galle harbor and also from Hikkaduwa harbor. These places are tourist attractions as well. It is because of the beach and the historically significant Galle fort.
One reason why the Mirissa area is the best for whale watching is that it is one place where the continental shelf is narrowest. Therefore, when you go a few kilometers into the ocean, the depths will be close to 1km.
Trincomalee is on the east coast of Sri Lanka. It will take around 6 hours to drive from the capital Colombo to Trincomalee.
Trincomalee is a bay. In fact, it is the largest bay in Sri Lanka. The depth in the middle of the Trincomalee bay is close to 1km. It is difficult to imagine, but it’s true.
Trincomalee is a natural harbor. There are more than enough places to harbor ships. In ancient times, people say that this harbor was used to hide ships. Currently, there is an operating harbor in the bay. However, not a lot of vessels move in and out of the bay per day.
Unlike Colombo and Mirissa, this area is less populated, calm, and quiet. On the contrary, Trincomalee is also a famous place among tourists who visit Sri Lanka.
That is because of nothing but the marvelous beaches. Arugam Bay is a famous surfing spot among all surfers in the world. There is also a well-maintained beach called “Marble Beach” close to Trincomalee town.
Like I told you before, the continental shelf is pretty narrow. It is thinner than that in Mirissa. Therefore, whales come closer to the island.
There are several local tour operators in the Trincomalee area. For your ease, I have posted some links if you want to check them out. Similar to Mirissa, you have to take more or less, a half an hour trip into the ocean to watch whales. There is no guarantee that you will definitely see them, but there is a high probability. However, most of the tourists get to see whales. But, as in Mirissa, everything depends on the timing. Ask your local tour guides on the schedules.
Whale Watching in Kalpitiya
Mirissa is on the southern coast, Trincomalee is on the east coast, and Kalpitiya is the west coast of Sri Lanka. Evenly distributed. It means whatever the itinerary you choose to travel, you can still get a glimpse of these enormous creatures in the sea.
Kalpitiya is in the Kalpitiya peninsula just above Chilaw. Kalpitiya has some very scenic beaches of all. The heat in Kalpitiya is quite high compared to the other regions. This area is famous since it is located on the tip of the largest lagoon in Sri Lanka. Also, you can find a lot of historical buildings built when Portuguese subjugated the island back in the 1700s.
Whale sighting is quite common in the deep waters in the region. Several hotels, restaurants, and other tour agents are there who arrange whale watching trips into deep waters.
Whale Watching Season in Sri Lanka
The best time to watch whales is when the sea is calm. Only then the tour boats can reach into the deep sea. When the sea is rough, there is a tendency to flip the ship because of high tides.
The sea is rough in the monsoon season. That is when you can expect a lot of rain and wind in different areas of Sri Lanka.
There are two monsoon seasons.
- South West Monsoon
The southwest monsoon is active from May to September. The important thing is, this monsoon affects the southwestern region of Sri Lanka mostly.
- North Eastern Monsoon
Northeastern monsoon is active from October to January. Similar to the southwest monsoon, northeast monsoon affects mostly to the northwestern region of Sri Lanka. That is the Trincomalee region. However, Kalpitiya and Mirissa areas will be free of storms mainly.
But it doesn’t mean that you will see whales anytime in the year. The main reason is the whales start migrating from region to region at different times in the year. From November to April, whales migrate from southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. This is the best time to go whale watching. This period is called the season to watch whales. There is a chances of spotting whales in this time are 98%.
Tour operators encourage tourists not to make bookings on off season times since the chances of seeing whales are very low and the sea is also rough.
Whale Watching Tours - What You Should Know...
There are quite a lot of tour operators in the areas of Mirissa, Trincomalee, and Kalpitiya. Most of the hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and tour operators arrange a lot of whale watching trips in seasonal times.
There are tours arranged at different prices. There are expensive ones and also very cheap ones. But you should always be cautious about the safety of yourself and the others you travel with. Also, it is useful if you can check how eco-conscious these operators are. Since we are going to watch whales and other sea creatures habitats, it is essential to protect their habitats and let them have their freedom. When you decide your price, please look into these aspects as well.
Below given are the usual prices that operators charge from tourists.
Wildlife tax of $18.5 have to pay at the harbor.
Wildlife tax of $9 have to pay at the harbor.
Some boats can only occupy only 8 people. Those are small boats with one engine. Also, there are those with a higher deck and can fill around 50 people. In the bigger boats, although you get to travel with other fellow tourists, the view will be much more beautiful compared to a small boat. So you can take better pictures of whales when you go on a big ship.
Several people are also going along with the tourists to let people know what they see. In luxury packages, you will be served with refreshments, morning breakfast, morning tea, snacks, boat and passenger insurance, and tablets for seasickness.
The whale watching trip will usually take from 3 -5 hours. The average duration for whale watching in Sri Lanka is around 4 hours. Almost all the tour operators start their tours before 7am. Therefore, they will encourage you to be present at the harbor at 6.00am – 6.30am.
You will have the washroom facilities in the boat. Therefore, you have to worry about that.
You should not expect to see the whole whale. Mostly you will see the tail end or the blowhole area of the whale. But still it a rare and marvelous sight.
Tour Operator Links
Tourists Reviews About Whale Watching in Sri Lanka
When you go to whale watching, always remember that we are going to see the wildlife. We are strangers there. Therefore, we should not pollute their habitats in any way.
From the last year, the Sri Lankan coast guard started keeping a close eye on the tour operators and the crew they are traveling with. They are also vigilant on things like whether the tour operators provide required facilities, and they check whether the safety precautions have adhered.
Keeping that in mind, Happy whale watching! :)