Whale Watching Bentota: Sri Lanka’s Blue Whale Highway
Thousands of whales migrate from the Arabian Sea to southern Sri Lankan tropical breeding grounds and join the resident whales living off the sea of Mirissa
Whale Watching Bentota: Sri Lanka’s Blue Whale Highway
The warm and sunny period of western and southern Sri Lanka from April to November is a rush hour off the beaches of Mirissa, Bentota, Galle and entire south and west coast, as tens of thousands of foreign travellers flock into pristine beaches for sun-bathing. Simultaneously thousands of whales migrate from the Arabian Sea to southern Sri Lankan tropical breeding grounds and join the resident whales living off the sea of Mirissa. Since Bentota by the most popular beach for holidays on the island, a large number of travellers look for activities like “Whale watching Bentota”, “safari from Bentota”, “fishing tour from Bentota” etc, and tour operators like Seerendipity tours organize daily whale watching Bentota tours during the winter.
Off the coast of western and southern Sri Lanka, the North-west monsoon period from April to November is a rush hour on the “Blue whale highway”, as thousands of Blue whales and humpback whales head to the tropical sea off western and southern Sri Lanka. The sea off Mirissa, Matara is breeding grounds for whales and marks the endpoint of the whale migration route, that expanse between the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Every year many thousands of whales take part in this 10,000km annual round trip, the habit of migration is one of the activities handed down from generation to generation among the whales and in practice for many millennia. However, according to the statistics gathered by the non-governmental organizations that engaged in whale protecting activities, local whale watching trip organizers, and commercial fisherman are pointing to a slow increase in number during the last several years, which in turn helps the local people to attract more tourists.
Whale watching Bentota and many other things such as boating, snorkelling, diving can be booked with Seerendipity tours. Usually the whale watching trip lasts around 4 hours; however, in some cases, it might take about 6 to7 hours. Seerendipity tours offer the whale watching trip from Colombo and Bentota combined with several other activities such as visiting Galle fortress (UNESCO world heritage), Hikkaduwa beach, Mask Museum, Sea turtle conservation centre, and Madu river estuary boat trip. The entire tour expands over 2 days and the package includes accommodation in a beach resort, breakfast and dinner, live guide, hotel pick-up and departure transfer.
The travellers, who take the Bentota whale watching trip, can have a close and enchanting encounter with Blue whales, humpback whales and dolphins. “Blue whale, this magnificent creature can grow up to a hundred feet in length and weighing over 150 tons,” Says Dhanushaka, who operates a whale-watching boat. The grown-up whales with babies can also spot here, as they come out from the water to blow and replenish their lungs for a long dive. “Unlike earlier the whale watching activities are regulated by coarse guards now,” says Dhanushka, whale watching boats should operate in a responsible and correct manner in order to make sure that animals are safe and there is no unduly stress on animals, the boats should maintain a distance between the animals and the boats, stipulated by the coast guards in order to make sure that animals are not disturbed.
“Blue whale, This is a magnificent creature, very relaxed, clever and friendly; sometimes they show up very close to the boats,” explained tour guide Janaka. “They respond to the human signals, when you make a bit of noise on board, you can see especially the blue whales slapping its tail and doing much other stuff.”
There had been many critics about the whale watching practices in Sri Lanka which led the government of Sri Lanka to introduce a new set of rules and regulate whale watching activities. Now the activities of whale watching boats monitored by the Coast guards and Sri Lankan navy. “Earlier we used to take around 125 passengers in our whale watching boat, but it is regulated now and we can have only 75 passengers onboard” Said Dhanushka.
The global; whale population is still recovering after blue whales and many other whale species were widely hunted and killed by commercial whalers in the early part of the 20th century. Australia banned commercial whaling in the late 70s after that vociferous critic was mounting on Japan against commercial whaling, however, Japan is still conducting scientific whaling programs.
After a few kilometres of the journey from the Mirissa harbour, the travellers can see the whales, frolicking jumbos starts to toss their tail in the air after they blow several times to replenish the lungs with fresh air. Unlike humpback whales blue whales do not propel its body out of the water, blue whales are just making a jump showing the upper part of the body and twist the tail in the air before it goes deep into the water.
Samy, a 10-year-old, who arrived in Sri Lanka for a 7 days tour with his family from Perth in Western Australia, was taken aback. “This is the first time I have seen a whale” he cried. And due to the slow but steady growing number of whales, more and more visitors will have the opportunity to spot this amazing creature at their doorstep.
What time do we start the whale watching trip?
Good question and the answer is not that much appealing to some guests, because you have to leave the hotel in Bentota at around 04.00 am. The whale watching boats start to board passengers at 06.00 am and they leave the harbour around 06.30. Therefore, in order to catch the whale watching boat, the travellers need to leave Bentota very early.
How much do we need to pay for whale watching in Mirissa?
The passengers need to pat $50 for the whale watching boat, the price includes the breakfast served onboard, tea/coffee, all taxes and charges of the boat. The transfer from the hotel to harbour and return journey should be paid separately.