Establishment: Raja and the Whales
Location: Mirrissa, Sri Lanka
Editor’s note: Ling Tan shares a review of Raja and The Whales, from her whale watching expedition in Mirrisa, Sri Lanka. The majestic Blue Whales, the largest mammal on earth, had her and her family enthralled.
It felt like we’ve been chasing the whales forever! Ten years back, in Vancouver, we arrived two weeks too early for whale watching season. Two years ago, in southwestern Australia, we arrived one week after operators sent off the last of the stragglers.
Finally, this year (2013) in Sri Lanka with our kids, we arrived at the beginning of the whale-watching season. Specifically, the Blue Whales – the largest animal on Earth – are in. Yeah!
There are numerous tour operators offering whale watching expeditions in Mirissa. We found Raja and the Whales online and noted that they have just launched their brand-new, custom-built boat in Nov 2013. Through further research, we also found that these chaps are actively involved in research and conservation of the Blue Whales.
Booking our trip with them was a breeze – and off we go for our whale watching in Sri Lanka!
Raja’s boat departs Mirissa harbor at 6.30am. This meant an early pick-up (which Raja efficiently arranged) at 5am for us, from our hotel in Fort Galle. It wasn’t that bad though – coffee and biscuits were served once we got onboard.
Including our family of four, there were just over 20 passengers on the cruise.
Raja briefed us as we set off – he told us interesting facts about the blue whales, also specifically about approaching guidelines (reducing speed when approaching the whales, no chasing and “cornering”, placing engine in neutral when the whales are close etc etc). He was going to do his best to bring us to the blue whales, and give us our photo opportunities, but wanted us to understand that the whales’ safety and well-being are just as important.
The crew also offered anti-seasickness pills. We made the kids take them, just in case the sea was going to be rough that day. It was good we did! Before the pills kicked in, the kids did get a tad dizzy… so the crew found them a safe spot to sleep…
Our boys were the only children on board that morning. The crew had kid-sized lifejackets for them, and through the trip, the crew kept an eye out for them, especially when the sea got rougher. All passengers have to wear their life jackets throughout the trip.
That morning, we saw over ten blue whales (Raja and his team counted 12). This was one of the most magical moment of our trip to Sri Lanka with the kids.
We were the only boat in the area, and for a while had about five whales within close proximity. A number of the whales, obviously as curious about us as we were about them, decided to swim in an arc around the boat.
I lost count of the number of “tail-ups” we saw, just before each whale dives back into the sea.
On the way to the spot, we spotted some dolphins too!
Our boys were really excited by the first few sightings. After a while though, they realized the blue whales were not going to perform any acrobatics (these are not the humpback whales…) and became more interested in their breakfast. Have I mentioned, that Raja and his team fed us well? Beautifully presented fresh fruits platter as we set off, a hot breakfast of freshly made omelet or sunny-side-up with bread shortly after, bottled fruit juices and sliced cakes on the way back. Yes, they won over our boys’ heart with the food.
Overall, it was a neat excursion, well worth the 5 hours and the early start. The duration of the trip varies – it depends on how soon the team spots the first whales of the day. Whale watching is relatively affordable in Sri Lanka, with our family of four paying USD150 for the trip; in Australia a similar excursion would have cost us approximately USD220.
Mirissa is also a pretty little seaside town – the was view of the harbour as we sailed back to land.
If you find yourself in South Sri Lanka (with or without the kids) during the whale watching season, which is from December to April, go on the excursion! We loved it!
Editor’s note: Have you gone on a whale watching expedition with the kids? Where? Did you spot these majestic marine mammals? Do leave us a comment, or share your story with us here – we’d love to hear from you.
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