By Howard Martenstyn
For centuries, Sri Lanka’s whales, dolphins and dugongs were a secret known only to fisherfolk and other residents of the island’s coastal districts, as well as a small number of foreign mariners, whalers and naturalists. Today, whale watching has grown to be an ultimate wildlife experience and is one of the fastest growing tourist activities.
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.