March 2018


Marine Marvels Off Mirissa
March 2018




Boats of every size and type at the Mirissa Harbour

The largest mammal on earth breaks through the calm surface of the ocean with absolute grace, spouting a fountain of water, fluking its tail. Around this time of the year, the seas off Mirissa play host to the magnificent blue whale, among other marine mammals. It is a sight that draws travellers from across the world.


Words: Keshini de Silva
Photography: Vishwathan Tharmakulasingham and Menaka Aravinda


We reached the Mirissa fishing harbour around 6.30am. Hopping off the vehicle we joined the crowds heading towards the docks. The harbour was surrounded by vessels of all kinds, whale watching boats, yachts, motor boats and colourful fishing boats. At this time in the morning, until April, it is the whale watching boats that draw the crowds.


Brushing the sleep off their eyes, the amateur whale watchers boarded the boats and strapped on the life jackets. As long as the boats were still firmly anchored, coffee or tea was served for those who really needed a pick-me-up. Once all the travellers had boarded on to the vessels the boats set off. With a little jolt and a seamless buzz of the engine, our boat set sail around 6.55am. The flotilla of whale-watching boats quickly made its way through the Mirissa cove, waved off by the lighthouse, the sun glowing above. Within minutes, the land was a mere silhouette of blue.

Blue whales are believed to dive for between 10 to 20 minutes

Blue whales feed almost exclusively on krill and require at least four tonnes of food a day.


For around two hours, the vessel steered ahead, with nothing insight except the deep, sapphire, immense waters of the Indian Ocean. Around 9am, the watchers were rewarded with a sighting of a magnificent blue whale spouting water just before it dived. After staying submerged for around ten minutes, the magnificent creature resurfaced miles away and after a few minutes dived once again, this time raising its tail like a fluke. As the tail slipped in to the water, creating a water fall, it was a spectacle that entreated applause from the onlookers. Blue whales are believed to dive for between 10 to 20 minutes, a fact we witnessed first hand. And in the waters off the coast of Mirissa the whales enjoy feeding in the nutrient-rich waters filled with krill. Blue whales feed almost exclusively on krill and require at least four tonnes of food a day. This Cetacean is also among the fastest whales in the world, swimming at up to 25.75 kilometres per hour. Indeed, once the blue whale dived, it was almost impossible to predict the location from where it would re-emerge; the direction as well as the distance. It was an experience in itself to glide from one end to the other end of the boat, cling on to the rails with one hand while trying to capture a photograph of the great marine mammal in action.


Whale Watcher Tips

- Purchase or reserve your tour in advance. Tickets can be purchased for rides on the bigger boats while yachts and speed boats can be booked as well.

- Food and water is provided on the boats. But make sure to check in advance.

- The earlier you are the better seats you will get.

- These waters are part of the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary and have been protected since 1979. Therefore, dispose of garbage responsibly and do not throw anything to the ocean.

After about 30-45 minutes of this excitement, the boat changed course. Thereafter, we spotted a school of spinner dolphins. They were keeping a fishing boat company. It was intriguing to watch the pod dive together and immediately remerge on the other side of our boat. These dolphins are quite acrobatic and are common in tropical open seas, sometimes seen spinning high in the air. Indeed, their spins and jumps happen in a flash, and one must almost try not to blink to catch the spinner dolphins' rapid movements.


Our escapade to the Mirissa seas was a journey of around four hours, yet to us it almost felt like a few minutes. When there is no thrilling sightings of whales or dolphins, the deep, contemplating ocean gleaming like liquid gold in the sunlight will cling on to your attention.

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    The Mirissa lighthouse waves the flotilla of boats off

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    In search of marine marvels

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    A blue whale spouts

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    A blue whale just before taking a dive

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    Whale ahoy! Watchers eagerly observe the massive mammal

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    A pod of spinner dolphins in seas off Mirissa

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