It’s funny how a 4AM alarm doesn’t have to fill you with dread and thoughts of “what the hell am I doing?!” if it’s to do something you want to do.
Whale watching wasn’t something that was initially on our itinerary, as I’d read a lot of mixed things about it and didn’t want to spend four hours (plus) on a boat to see nothing but ocean, but our driver recommended it and he hadn’t been wrong with anything yet, so we went for it, and I’m so glad we did.
We met Geeth, one of the dozen or so people who operated excursions in the harbour at Mirissa. I had a good feeling about Geeth. He greeted us with a smile which was framed by his dreadlocked hair and was wearing a t-shirt which proudly proclaimed ‘Keep Calm and Save the Whales’. As we boarded the boat he offered us a sea-sickness tablet, but with the famous mantra ‘don’t take
sweets pills from strangers’ firmly in my mind, I kindly declined. With his body language and facial reaction alone, he managed to say “well, suit yourself”, better than he ever could have done verbally. It was enough to make me almost regret not taking a tablet from the man I’d just me, not least because I had never been on a boat out at sea before, so wasn’t sure how I might react. I’m pleased to report though, that my sea legs did me proud and I managed to keep the breakfast we were served on the journey in my stomach – which is more than I can say for about a dozen others; the bottom deck of the boat resembled a hospital.
Within minutes of finishing our breakfast, a pod of dolphins surfaced and began playing in the wake of the boat. Everyone that wasn’t rediscovering the contents of their stomach rushed to their feet to get a good viewing position. Not long later, a blue whale surfaced not far from our boat. We spent the next 2 hours or so sat in a shipping lane waiting 10 minute intervals between the whale surfacing. Our driver (as well as the dozen others) having to guess where it would surface next. On the return journey we saw a couple of turtles and a dead calamari (which the crew scooped in for tea – the dead calamari, not the turtles).
I have to say, as enjoyable as the experience was, I was, and remain, slightly split on the morality of it. The amount of fossil fuel being churned out by the dozen or so boats was immense and some of the boats had a tendency to chase a little too much. Our driver was respectable though and clearly cared for the whales as much as his guests, refusing to chase the whale when it was getting a little crowded and staying out at sea longer, to try and see it whilst it wasn’t as busy. If you do go whale watching, I’d definitely recommend Geeth.
Read the rest of my Sri Lanka Stories, here.