As a last hurrah for the school holidays we headed to Mirissa, about 45 minutes drive from Galle, to do a whale watching tour. Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to have a good chance of seeing the largest animal EVER to have lived on the planet.
The deep waters off the southern coast of Sri Lanka are also home, at various times to several other whale species including Sperm Whales, Killer Whales, Fin Whales and Brydes Whales. We were hoping to spot the big one, however…
And we did! Blue Whales are usually only found on their own, or with one or two others. We watched these two whales whenever they surfaced over about an hour. Interestingly, Blue Whales are migratory across the world’s oceans except off Sri Lanka where they reside all year round. Researchers think this may be due to a constant upwelling from deep sea trenches creating a constant food source
The ‘small’ whalesucker, a species of remora or suckerfish, is about a metre long – which gives you a sense of the size of the whales. This species is most commonly found on Blue Whales and they have a mutualistic relationship with the whale – the remora getting free food (including faeces!) and protection, while the whale gets a free cleaning service – the removal of parasitic crustaceans and dead skin.
In 2012, Sri Lanka introduced whale watching regulations to manage the burgeoning industry. Although there were about ten boats watching these whales, they did all seem to stop their engines at a fair distance from the whales. Hearteningly also, the coast guard turned up (and apparently often do) to ensure all the regulations were being adhered to (including in relation to humans which led to our crew hastily requesting we put our lifejackets on!).
On the way back we came across the largest pod of dolphins any of us have ever seen. At least 100 and possibly far more than this. Our guide advised us we saw two species, bottlenose dophins (a smaller subspecies than we get at home) and spinner dolphins (we did notice some of the dolphins doing whacky jumps and apparently these are the spinners).
Writing from Mahani