28 November 2017

Whale Watching In Mirissa

Mirissa, Sri Lanka

It was in February that two friends of mine and I decided to visit Sri Lanka. Mirissa was the starting point of our vacation and it was supposed to be a relaxed way to begin those great adventures together. A friend of mine was excited about what she has read on the lonely planet guide book about the whale watching in Mirissa. In fact it seemed a must. There were two reasons for what I didn’t have that particular interest on trying it: first of all I’m not a sea friendly person and then I have tried the whale watching already once in Akureri, during my trip to Iceland. Carmen didn’t want to miss it at all and Valentina seemed wanting to follow her. So I gave up and decided to join them. Only later, I realized that it has been a terrible idea. I should have been sleeping peacefully in the hotel.

There were board signs everywhere in Mirissa offering whale watching boat trips. The average price was Rs. 3500.00 (€22.00), it included pick up, drop off and on-board breakfast. We tried to negotiate but the price didn’t go down much. Most of them stopped at Rs.2500.00 (€15.00), therefore at the same price, anyone was as good or as bad as any other; so we bought the ticket in one of those agencies in Mirissa. At that moment we didn’t have enough experience to know that probably lower price meant smaller boat and this would be a big problem in case of rough seas. Bigger boats are obviously more stables therefore the smartest thing would have been spending more for a bigger one. No one informed us about this and no one told us what to expect during the trip.
All the agencies had a watchword: If you didn’t see the whale at the first day, you will be taken freely until you see them.
The day after we woke up early around 5 am because the boat was supposed to leave at 6.30 am. The three wheeler came to pick us up at our Hotel (ExtremeHost Guest House) at 5.50 am and when we reached the dock, we were so surprised to see the huge amount of boats getting ready for the excursion. Dozens and dozens of boats were leaving that morning: some were a bit bigger than ours and some smaller as well. It was absolutely overcrowded!!! Poor creatures! Too much of disturbing! Our boat didn’t leave before seven; on-board, we were served water bottles and sandwiches and we were all given a lifejacket. We sat outside, we had our breakfast and then we sang songs until that terrible moment arrived. After the initial dive, just ten minutes later, we started to feel sick. Carmen got terribly nauseated and after her, me and Valentina. The sea was rough and at a point it started to drizzle but the boat was moving so crazy without caring about the passengers who have already started to vomit.
The more time passed, the more Carmen was getting destroyed. She was vomiting hopeless and she reached a point where she couldn’t even lift up her head to collect the plastic bags (where to vomit in) hanging close to her. I and Valeria reached this moment slightly later. Someone, that I didn't even know who, had to pass us the plastic bags. We wanted to be returned back to the shore but it seemed impossible. The guys were determined to show us the whales and since the trip was 4 hours long, at a point we lost all our hopes. The whale watching trips can last even more, the guys will insist until the whale is seen. The rain drops were hitting us and we got wet but we had no strength to take an action. We couldn’t even move, in fact, once left the shore it was very difficult to stand or move around on the boat. Water bottles and many things were falling down the sea and nobody seemed to care about that. One could smell vomit all over the boat. In the middle of this horrible trip, in search of whales, when seeing the other boats sailing in our opposite direction, probably with the ones who have already finished the whale watching and are now returning back to the dock, I was feeling too sick that I wished I was with those boats going towards the land. Dying probably would have been better than suffering for five long hours like that. There were lots of whales of course; but seeing them was not our priority anymore. I forced myself to see one and Valentina also has seen one meanwhile Carmen was unable to lift up her head every time the guys shouted for whale. We arrived back to shore with no energy to move. I have never been that sick and that angry or that disturbed, although I have done so many boat trips before. It was a nightmare!!! We cancelled the plans for the rest of the day and went straight to the hotel to sleep all day long! Here are some tips that can help you out with the whale watching in Mirissa:

1.        Avoid if you suffer from seasickness. What are going for? Do you really wish those few hours of sickness in the middle of the people vomiting for that? Sri Lanka has plenty of options, there are wonders at each step then there is no reason to take this risk.
2.      A 15 L backpack is helpful because you need to keep strong and things tend to fly off the boat;
3.      Take the sea sickness pills;
4.     Go for the biggest boat even if it is expensive as they are most stables ones. There is a way to save money with whale watching. Instead of buying the tickets from the agencies you just go directly to the harbour and buy from the operators. In this way, you can avoid the commissions applied by the hotel or travel agencies;
5.      Waterproof clothing’s are surely advisable because the waves are very high and you will get wet easily even if it doesn’t rain.

My apologies to all the fishermen who try to improve their life conditions with what they already have. I don't want to penalize this sector in relation to the others. That is not my aim but I do believe that there is something to change. Why not trying to schedule the excursions according to the meteorological conditions? One more thought goes to all the sea mammals. Whale watching in Mirissa can contribute sustainably to the local economy but it need to be moderated and regulated in order to ensure the natural life of the mammals.

Join the conversation!

  1. Hi
    a very relevant article indeed , truly seasickness can ruin a trip very easily . i found this article very helpful and does need wide publicity

  2. Short but crisp article. Whale watching really is fun. :) However, the smell of vomit is still something one would not want to experience. Hahaha. Overall, thanks for sharing such unique adventure.

    More power to your blog.

  3. When is the best time to do the whale watching in Sri Lanka? Or all-year round? Have been to other places in the world where whale watching is possible, but it always happened to be off-season... :-(

  4. 15 sounds really good price to me. I paid 40 Canadian dollars to see whales.

  5. Felt sorry for your friend. Lesson is, be prepared! Come to my hometown Cebu, Philippines, a famous whale watching plus interaction is a hit there!

  6. Aaaah! I thought Mirissa was not a place that was well known. Looks like its also part of the tourism circuit. Every place that I think i discover is already a few years past its prime. I get your feeling of being angry for most part on a trip like this that basically drives away the whales.

  7. I was thinking about visiting Sri Lanka next year. A friend of mine has visited this year as well and she had such amazing stories. The boat trip sounds terrible. I also had such a boat trip in Sicily! I felt horrible.

  8. Sorry to hear that you all got sick. Such incidents leave such terrible memories for you. glad you got back safe. Like you said, if you are sea sick, maybe you can opt out of this one for the other things in Sri Lanka

  9. Mirissa seema to be a perfect place if you want to spend time with the friendly whales. I never heard of this place before. Thankyou for sharing the information.

  10. same sentiments we share with you. we have similar problems here in Cebu for our whalesharks I agree if the excursions cannot be helped as it is also helpful that us humans get acquainted with these lovely creatures, i hope the sleep or other routines are not disrupted so there should be stricter regulations and yeah tourists whould be aware and responsible.

  11. This sounds absolutely horrible! I've always wanted to go whale watching but I will definitely be taking your tips into consideration before booking any trips. Very scary.

  12. I thought you had a great time when I read the article and then that opening paragraph, I was like uh-oh, what could have happened. I am so sorry that you had to go through this terrible experience, I definitely wouldn't want that to happen to me. Getting seasickness is one of the worst things in the world. I wouldn't risk it just to see some whales. I don't think I'd be doing this when I go to Mirissa.

  13. Full story reading... very interesting visiting plan and place... I would like to go there if anyone have plan to go there will you pls contact with me bcz I want to go with a team... pls

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