Can you recall the last time you found yourself completely and utterly amazed? I’m talking goose bumps, breath-taking, jaw dropping awe. When were you last left overwhelmed by the astounding realisation that our natural world is truly incredible? Well, Sri Lanka is ready to remind you.
An island of contrast and wonder, Sri Lanka is a treasure trove bursting with ancient sites, legendary temples, endless beaches, spectacular landscapes, natural wonders and wild life in abundance. But amongst its many offerings Sri Lanka possesses one gigantic and alluring asset, for which it is a country like no other. This tiny island is one of the few places in the world which boasts the possibility of seeing in a single day, the largest animal walking the earth and the most enormous mammal ever to have graced the ocean waves.
For just a few months of year, deep in the calm, clear blue seas surrounding
Sri Lanka, something remarkable happens. Off the southern tip of the island close to the deep waters of the continental shelf, the most sought after marine mammals in the world gather for a feeding frenzy of epic proportions. From late January to early April an astonishing assortment of whales and dolphins come together here to hunt and feast in an event which fortunately for us, results in the greatest window of opportunity to catch a glimpse of so many different species of these fascinating creatures. At no other time or place on the planet is there such potential and this is why Sri Lanka is fast emerging as just about the best place to be for whale and dolphin watching.
In amongst a wealth of dorsal fins, tails and blow holes there are those belonging to a legendary creature an encounter with which is so thrilling,
so inspiring, it’s an experience pursued the world over. The most esteemed guest at this aquatic banquet is the largest animal that ever lived, the enigmatic, mysterious and majestic ruler of the sea, the Blue Whale.
But why, in such a vast expanse of ocean do Blue Whales come to the shores of Sri Lanka? Well, these creatures are illusive, they may be the ocean’s largest inhabitant but we know very little about their behaviour. It is possible that some of the population may be residents in the surrounding seas and simply come closer to shore in winter, though such a dramatic increase in the number of Blue Whales for such a short period may also be attributed to the island’s unique position within the Indian Ocean. It is understood that the meeting of the warm coastal waters with the cooler waters of the continental shelf cause rich nutrients to rise from the ocean bed; this feeds the krill which in turn feed the whales. Given their immense size, they can eat up to five tons a day of these tiny, tasty crustaceans. It is this cycle, combined with calm seas and what is believed to be the Blue Whale’s migratory path passing just off Sri Lanka’s southernmost tip, which results in the highest density of Blue Whales anywhere. Blue Wales are rare by nature; they were hunted almost to extinction. Their environment is unstable and much like every other animal on earth the biggest threat to their existence is mankind. They can hold their breath for up to half an hour and only surface for minutes at a time, so whilst everywhere else the odds may be stacked against you, here during these months, your chances of seeing one increase to around 90%
Blubber, Bone and Baleen, Big Facts and Whale Stats
- A Blue Whale’s tongue alone can weigh up to 4 tons. So that’s about as much as an elephant!
- They are among the loudest animals on the planet and can produce sounds louder than a jet engine.
- To feed, first they gulp in a mouthful of water by expanding the pleated skin on their throats. Their massive tongues then force water out through thin overlapping plates called baleen attached to their upper jaws and the krill left behind, are swallowed.
- In the wild, Blue Whales have an estimated life span of 80-90 years.
- Their spout blows in a single stream that can rise an amazing 30 feet above the surface of the water.
- These graceful swimmers have a cruising speed of over 5 mph and they can accelerate to more than 20 mph.
- Fully grown they can reach mind boggling dimensions of up to 100 ft in length, though their eyes are just the size of a football.
- They can communicate with other whales up to a thousand miles away but do not have any external ears. Their flesh and bone carry the sound to their ears which are buried in their skull.
- Funnily enough they are not true blue, above the surface they are more of a mottled blue-grey colour and their underbellies are a yellowish hue from the millions of microorganisms that take up residence in their skin.
- If you’re still seeking perspective... some of a Blue Whale’s blood vessels are so vast, you could swim through them.
This magnificent creature is a marvel to behold and a humbling symbol of all that is great in our natural world. So for one awesome encounter and the experience of a life time, see the Blue Whales on your next Sri Lanka holiday.
For Blue Whales visit Dondra Point and Mirissa near Galle on the south coast between November and April. Throughout the rest of the year at certain hot spots around the coastline there are also some incredible opportunities to experience over 27 other species of whales and dolphins. In the deep waters off the West Coast at Kalpitiya Peninsula large pods of dolphins are common November – March, Sperm Whales, Minke and Melon-Headed Whales can also be sighted. Whale and dolphin watching is also possible June to September from Trincomalee off the eastern shores and the western coastal cities of Alutgama, Ambalangoda. Hikkaduwa, Koggala and Marawila are amongst the closest resorts to launch points for day trips, but excursions are available on all Sri Lanka Holidays with Mercury Direct and from all Mercury Direct Sri Lanka Hotels.