Trincomalee sunrise

Whale Watching in Sri Lanka

Updated: Feb 14, 2019


by Howard Martenstyn


The country first became the focus of international cetalogical attention in the early 1980s, after research vessel Tulip documented the unusual frequency of great whale sightings (blue whales, Bryde’s whales and sperm whales) off its coasts. Soon, whale-watching tours were being offered to a growing number of enthusiastic tourists and researchers. Unfortunately everything was suspended by the country’s ethnic conflict. Following the end of the war in 2009, marine mammal watching in Sri Lanka experienced a resurgence which is being enjoyed to date.

The country first became the focus of international cetalogical attention in the early 1980s, after research vessel Tulip documented the unusual frequency of great whale sightings (blue whales, Bryde’s whales and sperm whales) off its coasts. Soon, whale-watching tours were being offered to a growing number of enthusiastic tourists and researchers. Unfortunately everything was suspended by the country’s ethnic conflict. Following the end of the war in 2009, marine mammal watching in Sri Lanka experienced a resurgence which is being enjoyed to date.


Whale Watching & Marine Mammal Conservation

Most conservationists agree that well-managed dolphin and whale watching expeditions do no harm

to the animals observed. Indeed, greater (though properly regulated) contact between humans and

cetaceans can result in a number of benefits to the latter. Observing marine mammals at close range,

we are typically enchanted or awed by what we see. We bond with these wondrous creatures emotionally and aesthetically even as we gain first-hand knowledge about their lives and deeper

understanding of the dangers facing them. Increased interest in and sympathy toward marine mammals

tends to generate more support for conservation, helping preserve Earth’s marine mammal biodiversity

for generations to come.


Threats to marine mammals from badly organised excursions are mainly the result of poor

and insensitive boat handling. Restricting the animals’ freedom of movement is the cardinal error,

to be avoided at all costs.


If you are fortunate enough to spot whales or dolphins on your trip, ensure that your boat is handled with sensitivity and caution. Let the animals themselves be your guides; it is up to them, not you, to decide the agenda of your meeting. Their liberty should not be compromised in any way, no matter how apparently benign the intervention may seem to you. Excepting only the safety of members of your party, the welfare of the mammals you are watching should always be your first priority.


When to Go Whale Watching in Sri Lanka

Marine mammals can be seen in Sri Lankan waters throughout the year, but sightings cannot

always be assured. For this reason, commercial whale-watching is a seasonal activity whose timing at

different locations round the island is influenced by weather patterns, sea conditions and, to a lesser

extent, marine mammal migrations.


These whale watching ‘seasons’ on either side of the island offer the calmest seas. It is best to go watching in calm wind conditions (up to 11 km/h). Winds of 12 km/h and above generate whitecaps, foamy wave-crests that make it difficult to spot cetaceans at any distance. These rougher seas may also be uncomfortable for children and inexperienced sailors.Dolphin-watching is an activity with a special appeal to young children.


HOT SPOTS

Southern seaboard: Submarine canyon off Dondra Head, Mirissa to Hambantota and

Little Basses canyon.

Eastern seaboard: Trincomalee: Koddiyar Bay and canyons directly east and northeast of Fort Fredrick. Submarine canyons off Passekudah, Batticaloa, Kalmunai and Oluvil.

Northwestern seaboard: off Kalpitiya Peninsula: Mampuri to Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary.


SIGHTING SEASONS

Southern seaboard: September to April. Mirissa is best from December to April while Little Basses is best during the two intermonsoonal periods.

Eastern seaboard: March to October. Best from March-May and September to October. Peak sightings in April.

Northwestern seaboard: October to April. Peak sightings in October and April.


Twenty seven species of marine mammals are known to be present in Sri Lankan waters. Some are resident whereas others can be migratory or nomadic. As such, the season for a particular species too

can vary by geographical location and time of year. Blue whales, Bryde’s whales, sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins are the most commonly seen species. Next come the

Eden’s whale, orcas, false killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, striped dolphins, spotted

dolphins and humpback dolphins.

Species-specific information based on years of research can be found on my website at www.slam.lk

or check with your local operator.


You can view the cover page and article Whale Watching in Sri Lanka published in the Travel Lanka magazine, January 2017 issue.


#spermwhale #dolphinwatching #orca #spinnerdolphin #whale #whalewatching #bluewhale #education #tourism #Trincomalee #conservation #dolphin #Brydeswhale #Kalpitiya #OutoftheBlue #slam #research

0 views

© Howard Martenstyn

Read copyright & disclaimer notices.

  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Google+ Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon

FOLLOW ME