Mirissa whale watching: Sri Lanka’s Blue Whale Highway

Mirissa whale watching Sri Lanka: 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. The whale migration is an annual event, which has turned the island into a whale-watching hot spot in Asia. Mirissa whale watching is a synonym to whale watching in Sri Lanka. Because there is no better place in Sri Lanka for whale watching than Mirissa. Mirissa whale watching or whale watching in Sri Lanka is available in many flavours. Mirissa’s whale-watching trip is available as a one-day whale-watching tour, which is a stand-alone trip. This activity includes all ground transportation from your beach hotel and all charges for the whale-watching boat as well as the breakfast. Whale watching can be combined with other tours and activities such as the southern coast tour and the Galle trip. And whale watching can be added as an activity to any other program such as 7 days cultural tour, or 10 days Sri Lanka luxury tour.

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This 2 day southern Sri Lanka tour includes a whale-watching cruise off Mirissa, southern Sri Lanka. The tour also includes a walking tour of Galle Fort, Hikkaduwa beach, River Safari of Madu river statuary, the sea turtle conservation project, and the mask museum.

Mirissa whale watching: 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 the entire south and west coast, as tens of thousands of foreign travellers flock to pristine beaches for sunbathing. Simultaneously thousands of whales also 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, is the most popular beach for holidays in Sri Lanka, a large number of travellers look for activities like “Whale watching Bentota”, “safari tours from Bentota”, “boat tours from Bentota”, and tour operators like Seerendipity tours organize daily whale watching Bentota tours during the entire year. There is a big demand for Sri Lanka day outing tours from Bentota beach hotels, due to a large concentration of foreign travellers.

Whale-watching trip as a stand-alone tour from Bentota

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. The whale migration is an annual event, which has turned the island into a whale-watching hot spot in Asia. Mirissa whale watching is a synonym for whale watching in Sri Lanka. Because there is no better place in Sri Lanka for whale watching than Mirissa. Mirissa whale watching or whale watching in Sri Lanka is available in many flavours. Mirissa’s whale-watching trip is available as a one-day whale watching tour from Colombo, which is a stand-alone trip. This activity includes all ground transportation from your beach hotel and all charges for the whale-watching boat as well as the breakfast. Whale watching can be combined with other Sri Lanka tour packages and activities such as the Sri Lanka southern coast tour and the Galle trip. And whale watching can be added as an activity to any other program such as 7 days cultural tour, or 10 days Sri Lanka luxury tour.

What is the best time for the Bentota whale-watching tour?

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 a breeding ground for whales and marks the endpoint of the whale migration route, which expanse between the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

1 Day Bentota Whale Watching Trip with Galle Fort, Mask Museum, Hikkaduwa beach.

Whale migration

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 fishermen 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 activities such as boating, snorkelling, and diving can be booked with Seerendipity tours

Whale watching in Bentota with Seerendipity tours

Seerendipity tours offer the whale watching trip from Colombo and Bentota combined with several other activities such as visiting the Galle fortress (UNESCO world heritage), Hikkaduwa beach, Mask Museum, Sea turtle conservation centre, and Madu river estuary boat trip. The entire southern Sri Lanka tour expands over 2 days and the package includes accommodation in a beach resort, breakfast and dinner, a live guide, hotel pick-up and arrival/departure transfers.

2 Day Bentota whale-watching tour in a nutshell

2 day whale-watching tour from Bentota starts at around 08.00 AM however the time may slightly be varied depending on the hotel you are staying at. There are a few places you are stopping before reaching the hotel in Mirissa. Spice garden, Mask Museum, Madu river estuary, and Galle Fort are the major tourist attraction that you encounter on day one of the whale watching tours. The whale-watching boat tour takes place the next day of the trip and our driver/guide will take you to the nearby harbour from the hotel in Mirissa.

How do we get more information on this 2 day Bentota whale watching and the southern Sri Lanka trip? Sri Lanka southern tour with whale watching

This whale-watching day tour starts from Colombo and other major beach resorts on the west coast of Sri Lanka. This one-day tour includes an all-inclusive whale-watching tour off Mirissa and a guided walking tour of Galle fort. You will be also visiting the spice garden, mask museum, and sea turtle conservation centre on this one-day tour. The private tour includes entire ground transportation in a luxury vehicle, breakfast, a live guide, and all taxes.

Can we do the Bentota whale-watching tour in one day? YES…more information

1 Day Bentota whale watching tour in a nutshell

  • Leave the hotel early morning (04.00 am)
  • Reach Mirissa harbour by 06.30 and board the whale-watching boat, later after the wake-watching boat trip return to the hotel, en-route visits,
  • Sea turtle conservation project
  • Hikkaduwa Beach
  • Moonstone mines
  • Mask Museum
  • Galle fortress

A closer look at Blue whales

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 weigh 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.”

Whale-watching practices in Sri Lanka

There had been many critics of 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 are closely monitored by the Coast Guard of Sri Lanka and the 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.

Can we swim with Whales in Sri Lanka?

NO. Travellers sometimes ask me if they can swim with whales. The answer is simply NO. Legally it is not allowed in Sri Lanka. I feel even from an ethical point of view it is not suitable to interfere with the activities of these creatures. Courseguards and navy soldiers are constantly monitoring such activities. If they find someone committing illegal activity, they will arrest them with the boat and hand them over to the police to take legal action against the offenders. Still, there are few people in Mirissa organising the activity to swim with whales. It is done highly secretly, and they use small boats to take the travellers to areas where there are whales. However, it is not a good idea to do that due to the fact that the consequences can be really expensive and even put you in jail.

Slow recovery of the global whale population

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 vociferous criticism was mounting on Japan against commercial whaling, however, Japan is still conducting scientific whaling programs.

How to spot a whale in the sea off Bentota/Mirissa?

Blue whale watching Bentota Sri Lanka. Mirissa is one of the popular places to visit on Sri Lanka trips such as 5 days southern Sri Lanka trip.

After a few nautical miles from the Mirissa harbour, the travellers can see the whales, frolicking jumbos starting to toss their tails in the air after they blow several times to replenish the lungs with fresh air. Unlike humpback whales blue whales do not propel their 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 steadily growing number of whales, more and more visitors will have the opportunity to spot this amazing creature at their doorstep.

Baleen whales

baleen whales are made of a very rough horny substance, which is similar to the fingernails of humans and is embedded in rows of plates in the gums of baleen whales. Inside the places are rough and bristle-like- the nature of the fineness of the bristle varies depending on the species and their diet. They take water into teh mouth during the feed and expel it through the baleen plates, which function as a sieve and filter teh food such as plankton and small fish. The blue whale (Baleaenoptera musculus), is commonly seen as a whale on Sri Lanka whale-watching tours coming under Baleen whales; The baleen whale is the largest animal to have ever lived. The blue whale weighs up to 160 tonnes and grows up to 40m in length.

Apart from the Blue whale, another type of Baleen whale species recorded in Sri Lankan territory, which is Bryde’s whale (Baleanoptera edeni), it is also seen often during whale watching tours in Mirissa. Bryde’s whales are generally small compared to teh Blue whales and it grows up to around 14 meters in length, Mink whales (Baleanoptera acutorostrata) are smaller still, as adults seldom exceed 10m! Fin whales (Baleanoptera physalus) the second largest species, measure 27m in length and weigh up to 100 tonnes.

Toothed whales

This type of whale is divided into six families. Out of six families, four families can be seen in Sri Lankan waters. The largest whale in this category is the Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), it grows up to 18m in length and weighs up to 45 tonnes. Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are widely seen dolphins in Sri Lanka and probably it is the most abundant mammal in Sri Lankan waters. They can be seen often around d Kalpitiy and Kirinda. These finned friends can grow up to 2m in length! The Striped dolphin (Stenella coeuleoalba), Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), and the Killer whale (Orcinus orca) are the other common animals of this category. Killer whales are also occurring in Sri Lankan water around Mirissa and Kalpitiya. Killer whales grow up to 9m in length – the sighting of killer whales is unmistakable sighting with their bold black and white markings, being familiar from ocean aquariums to blockbuster movies!

Where about Mirissa in Sri Lanka?

Mirissa is a fishing village in southern Sri Lanka and has a big fishing harbour. Tourism is also a popular industry in Mirisaa but however, but it is not as developed as on west coast beaches such as Bentota. Mirissa sits 170km south of Colombo and it takes a 2+ hour tour to reach Mirissa from Colombo. Mirissa can easily be reached on the Matara-Colombo highway, and Mirissa is to be found between Galle and Matara.

What time do we start Bentota whale-watching trip?

Good question and the answer is not that appealing to some guests, because you have to leave the hotel in Bentota at around 08.00 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.

Even though this tour is called Bentota whale watching trip, actually it should be named “Mirissa whale watching tour“, because all whale watching tour of Sri Lanka starts in Mirissa. And only a few whale-watching boats leave from another port in southern Sri Lanka (Dewundara harbour), however, 99 per cent of whale-watching boat trips start in Mirissa.

The distance to cover between Bentota and Mirissa is 100km and the drive takes well over 1 hour and 30 minutes. Usually, to be on the safe side, drivers pick up their customers at around 4.00 am, in fact at the harbour they have arranged the tickets and reported to the coast guards. If you stay in a hotel in Kalutara the tour still starts at 04.00 am but if you stay in a hotel in Colombo you will be picked up at around 3.00 am for the whale watching trip, due to the increased distance.

Whale Watching Bentota, the distance from Bentota to Mirissa whale watching harbour 100 km and the journey takes about 1 hour

Which whale-watching boat should I take?

Good question, because about a dozen whale-watching boats, leave the harbour at the same time. All of them are heading in the same direction, where they can find whales. Usually, the whale-watching boats are equipped with high-tech equipment backed by satellite connections to find out the whereabouts of the whales. And it helps them to spot whales, reduce the time spent on whale-watching trips and guarantee whale spotting to their customers.

There are two jetties at the harbour, where the whale-watching boats are docked. These 2 jetties are used by only whale-watching boats and private yachts. One of the jetties is located near the main entrance of the Mirissa harbour, it is on the right side as you step into the harbour. The next jetty is towards the far end of the harbour, continue to drive on the main road until you come to the last jetty, which is also dedicated to whale-watching boats.

The whale-watching boat operators are using one of those jetties. If you are with a guide or driver he will lead you to the correct jetty and make sure you get into the boat. If you travel on your own, you should clearly ask the boat operator, where the boat will be (which jetty), at the time you purchase the ticket.

How much do we need to pay for a whale-watching trip in Mirissa?

The passengers need to pay $50 for the whale-watching boat, the price includes the breakfast served onboard, tea/coffee, and all taxes and charges of the boat. The transfer from the hotel to the harbour and the return journey should be paid separately.

Where do I purchase the ticket for the whale watching in Bentota?

The tickets can be bought only by boat operators and local tour operators. It is best to purchase the ticket for the whale-watching tour well in advance, in order to make sure that you get a seat. It can be difficult to get a seat at the last moment during the busy tourist season (from November to April), however, there is not much rush for activities for April to November. If you book the whale-watching trip remotely, the entrance ticket will be issued on the day of the whale-watching trip at the harbour.

According to the rules and regulations, the boats should be accommodating only 70 passengers maximum for a trip. Usually, the seating capacity of these boats is about 150, however, with the new regulation in force, you will find that about half of the boat is free.

How long should we travel before spotting whales?

The time you spend on a whale-watching trip is highly unpredictable. It can be 1 hour to 5 or 6 hours. I have done the whale watching trip many times with our guests and I had been able to spot whales after about 1 hour most of the time and return to the harbour after about 2 hours. The whale-watching trip lasts a little bit longer during the monsoon (April to November) and it can take up to 5 hours. During the rest of the year, it would take around 2 hours.

We captured this sea turtle on our camera during a recent whale-watching trip from Bentota

Observe Sea turtles on the whale-watching trip

There are many interesting marine animal species that can be spotted in various parts of the island. West and southern coasts are particularly popular for spotting sea turtles, which is one of the very interesting activities among travellers.

Watching sea turtles in their natural habitat is an incredible experience for anyone and is a very rare encounter. But in Sri Lanka, there are many natural habitats where you can spot a sea turtle, Rekawa beach on the southern coast is one of the places.

Even though Mirissa is not particularly popular for spotting turtles, there is a high possibility of encountering them in the waters of Mirissa. And you will be able to spot a couple of turtles along with blue whales.

Conclusion of the Bentota whale-watching trip

You will reach the starting point after about 2 hours most of the time, (as I wrote earlier it can be more than 2 hours) and you will be collected by your driver or guide. On the return journey to your hotel in Bentota, you will be visiting a few important tourist attractions such as the Galle fort, Moonstone mines, sea turtle conservation project and Madu river estuary.

Why you should book a Sri Lanka whale watching tour with Seerendipity tours

Seerendipity tour is an entirely locally owned travel company with a head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

Best price for your Sri Lanka vacation packages

When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, which means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

Plan your best Sri Lanka vacation packages with experts

Our staff makes a personalized program for you, which you can change until you find the best package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration; all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write to us at admin@seerendipitytours.com, Tel 0094-77-440977, WhatsApp 0094-77-4440977

5 thoughts on “Mirissa whale watching: Sri Lanka’s Blue Whale Highway”

  1. We did a Sri Lanka whale watching tour. The whale-watching tour of Sri Lanka was fantastic. We had an opportunity to have a closer look into many blue whales. I believe Sri Lanka is one of the best places for whale watching. The whale watching boats are very comfortable, though small. I must say the crew who were on board is very well organized to show the whales to their customers. the crew is well aware of where the animals are roaming in the sea.

  2. WE are a family of 4 persons traveling to Sri Lanka in August. we love nature and wildlife, we do like to book the whale watching tour. Is it possible to book a whale watching tour on a private boat or yacht?

  3. I came across this article as I was looking for some activities do in Sri Lanka during our upcoming trip. The article is nice and very descriptive and also capable of convincing the readers of the value of whale watching trip in Bentota Sri Lanka.

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