A whale of a time!

A Blue Whale dives off the Sri Lankan coast. Look how massive the tail is!

Whale species seen off Sri Lanka include the Blue Whale, Sperm Whale and Bryde’s Whale. In addition you can see Spinner Dolphins and sea turtles too in the coastal waters.

There is a swell in the sea that’s slightly different. Look closely, you begin to notice the massive shadow gliding under the water. And suddenly, there it is! A massive body in grey and slaty blue-almost the same as the sea-comes up out of the water, a fountain erupts like a volcano and then you know you’ve seen the Blue Whale, the largest animal on Earth. Watching the majestic animal which is as large as an airplane as it cuts through the water, is one the most amazing wildlife encounters you can have on this planet.

Whales and the island life

The maps shows locations in Sri Lanka where you can find whales
The maps shows locations in Sri Lanka where you can find whales

The amazing aspect of this encounter is that it happens ever so frequently (often) very close to India, off the coast of Sri Lanka. Over the past ten years the southern tip of Sri Lanka has become one of the world’s top whale watching spots. Blue whales and sperm whales can be seen between November and April fairly close to the island’s coast. That makes the location rather special as one typically has to travel much deeper out into the ocean to see these majestic creatures.

Why makes Sri Lanka so special for whale watching

Around 15 years a marine biologist named Charles Anderson who was studying whales in the Maldives began developing an idea that whales should be passing by the southern coast of Sri Lanka during their migrations between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. By 2010, whales were being regularly sighted off the southern coast of Sri Lanka close to a town named Mirissa.

The continental shelf (the piece of land that extends into the sea along the coast line) is very narrow near Mirissa. As a result, within a 5-6 kilometres of the coast, one can reach fairly deep water. Whales are creatures of the deep. Plus the point where the shelf stops and the sea depth becomes great is a meeting point of warm coastal waters and the colder water of the deep ocean. This mixing causes huge amounts of nutrients to rise from the ocean floor. These nutrients attract krill (tiny ocean creatures) that in turn attract the whales that eat the krill in huge quantities.

The availability of food and the depth of the ocean so close to the island makes southern Sri Lanka one of the best whale watching spots in the world.