By Thulasi Muttulingam, Pix by Sanka Vidanagam
How many of us know that the world’s largest animal, the Blue Whale is a common sight in the seas off Galle, Trincomalee and Kalpitiya. So are the sperm whale and several species of dolphins.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Board is actively promoting whale watching, and as part of a group of journalists taken by the Tourism Board to Mirissa to see it firsthand, I was able to experience the joy of bonding with nature, the thrill of watching whales deep diving as well as dolphins gracefully moving through the water. Somehow I had not expected it to be as joyous an experience as it turned out to be. The sight of these majestic creatures was indeed exhilarating.
We had been warned that we might not see any at all, that it all depended on luck and that it would take more than one hour of travelling out to sea before we saw one. But within 45 minutes, we saw the white spout rising above the water marking the spot where the whale was. Then it surfaced for some time before lifting its tail out of the water and diving into the depths of the ocean.
Boats for whale watching can be hired for Rs.4500 per head.
We were disappointed to see it go but settled back to our breakfasts. Suddenly the boat sped up again and we realized another one had been spotted. This one was already on the surface of the water but it too dived with a disdainful swish of its tail.
No matter how many we saw after that, the thrill at every sighting never ebbed. The rocking motion of the boat, the sparkling beauty of the ocean and the constant spray of water on our faces combined to make it a deliriously joyous experience.
The previous day’s expedition had seen six which was considered a good number so we had been hopeful of seeing at least that much. To our good fortune, we saw eleven (although this included the tips of the fins of two).
We saw them spouting only twice, which was also a beautiful sight. It was an unexpected bonus when, after two hours at sea while returning to shore, we suddenly spotted the dolphins. We saw two separate schools of dolphins.
Fulfilled and happy we returned to shore, enjoying the sea and the sight of the occasional flying fish on the way. The Fortress Hotel in Koggala provided us accommodation and we were warmly welcomed the previous night by the manager and hotel staff. Of all the welcome drinks I have had their ‘cinnamon and ginger crushed ice tea’ was truly refreshing. It didn’t taste like tea and it certainly didn’t taste gingery. After a tiring journey from Colombo, it acted as an instant ‘pick me up’.
So after a comfortable night spent at the hotel, we set out early morning on our whale watching expedition, with breakfast packed for us by the hotel staff. We returned for a quick lunch of delicious, aromatic pizza before returning to Colombo.