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, Consuelo, was excited about what she had read in the lonely planet guide book about the whale watching in Mirissa. In fact, it seemed a must.
There were two reasons why I didn’t have a particular interest in trying it: first of all I’m not a sea-friendly person and secondly, I have tried whale watching already once in Akureri, during my trip to Iceland. Consuelo didn’t want to miss it at all and Valeria wanted 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 stayed in the hotel sleeping peacefully. There were board signs everywhere in Mirissa offering whale watching boat trips. The average price was Rs. 3500.00 (€22.00) per person. It also 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. We chose a place anywhere, the nearest one to our hotel. And that is how we bought the tickets at one of those agencies in Mirissa. At that moment we didn’t have enough experience to know that probably a lower price meant a smaller boat and this would be a big problem in case of rough seas. Bigger boats are obviously more stable therefore the smartest thing for whale watching in Mirissa would have been spending more for a bigger boat.
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 a whale on the first day, you
will be taken for free 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. A threewheeler (Tuk Tuk) came to pick us up at our Hotel (ExtremeHost Guest House) at 5.50 a and when we reached the dock, we were so surprised to see the infinite number of boats getting ready for the excursion. Dozens and dozens of boats were leaving that morning: some were a bit bigger than ours but others smaller as well. It was absolutely overcrowded!!! Poor whales! Too much disturbance!
Our boat didn’t leave until 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. Consuelo got terribly nauseated and after her, me and Valeria. The sea was rough and at one point it started to drizzle but the boat was moving so crazily without caring about the passengers who had already started to vomit.
The more time passed, the more Consuelo was getting destroyed. She was vomiting hopelessly and she reached a point where she couldn’t even lift up her head to collect the plastic bags (for her to vomit in) hanging close to her. Valeria and I reached this stage slightly later. Someone, that I didn’t even know, 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 of our hope. The whale watching trips in Mirissa can last even longer, the guys will insist on continuing until the whale is seen. The raindrops were hitting us and we got wet but we had no strength to take any action. We couldn’t even move, in fact. Once we left the shore it was very difficult to stand or move around on the boat.
Water bottles and many other things were falling down into 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 I saw the other boats sailing in the opposite direction, probably the ones who had already finished the whale watching and were now returning back to the dock, I was feeling so sick that I wished I was with those boats going towards the land.
There were lots of whales of course; but seeing them was not our priority anymore. I forced myself to see one and Valeria also saw one. But meanwhile, Consuelo was unable to lift up her head every time the guys shouted for a 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!
That’s not how we wanted to start our vacation and this is the reason why at all costs I wanted to share
this experience with you.
Tips for whale watching in Mirissa.
1. Avoid it if you suffer from
seasickness. What are you going for? Do you really want to risk those few hours
of sickness in the middle of people vomiting for that? Sri Lanka has plenty of
other options, there are wonders at each step. There is no reason to take this risk.
2. A 15 L backpack is helpful because you need your hands 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 the most stable ones.
5. If you want to save money
with whale watching in Mirissa, 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;
6. Waterproof clothing is
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. Why not try to schedule the excursions according to the meteorological conditions for example? 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. Something needs to be changed with the whale watching in Mirissa! Since now I’m getting goose bumps just talking about it!
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