Whale watching in Mirissa can be an incredible experience.
Together with South Africa, Argentina, The Azores and a few other countries, Sri Lanka is one of the best whale watching destinations in the world.
If you are a fan of seeing wildlife in its natural environment, this is definitely an activity you should add to your trip to Sri Lanka. The good news is that there are several places to do it. The bad news is that whales can only been spotted in certain seasons – so if you are keen on it, you really should consider planning your trip around this.
In this post, I explain everything you need to know about whale watching in Mirissa and share some useful tips to help you plan your stay and make the most of your time there.
13 Things To Know About Whale Watching In Mirissa
The best viewings are between March and April
You can’t go whale watching in Mirissa year round – the season is from November to April. Keep in mind, however, that the best viewings are between March and April. The rest of the year, with the heavy rains during the monsoons, the sea is simply too rough and it is impossible to get out in search of whales.
You can’t take it for granted that you will spot whales
The first thing you will be told once you book the tour and even as soon as you get on board the boat that will take you whale watching is that there is absolutely no guarantee that you will actually see the whales. You can rest assured that the staff on board the boat will do their absolute best to make sure you have a wonderful experience, but keep in mind that nowhere in the world you should take spotting whales for granted – definitely not when whale watching in Sri Lanka.
You will also spot dolphins and turtles
As an added bonus during your whale watching in Mirissa expedition you will get to see other marine life. Look out for birds – there will be various species flying around. The most impressive sighting, however (other than the whales obviously) are dolphins and sea turtles.
You must listen to the captain
Personnel on board of the boat has a trained eye and spots whales from a distance – while your untrained eye is probably still browsing the horizon in search for any sign of life. Make sure to listen to personnel onboard. They will tell you where to look for whales and they will say “tail up” any time they can spot a whale about to show off!
Get to know the signs that will help you spot the whales
Blue whales are among the biggest mammals on earth. They can measure up to 30 meters. As they are mammals, they have lungs – they can’t breathe underwater. But their lungs are so huge that whales can hold their breath for half hour at a time.
Before surfacing, whales spout the air (and water) through their blow-hole. After that, they dip in and out of the water for three or four minutes and eventually they dive back in. That’s when you will get to see their tail.
Expect to be at sea for up to 7 hours
Whale watching in Mirissa is often a matter of luck. Whales sometimes show up immediately after the boat leaves the harbor, other times it will take longer to spot them. On certain days, the expeditions may last three hours. On others, they can last up to seven. When I did it, it took us almost three hours to find the whales and the overall trip lasted six hours.
It is not cheap
Whale watching in Mirissa is not cheap – at least not considering the prices of tours and activities in Sri Lanka. But it is much much cheaper than it would be in many other whale watching destinations! You can expect to pay anything between $40 and $60 USD – make sure to haggle the price of the tour a bit if you book it in person.
I honestly think the tour is worth every penny – it’s not like you get to see whales every day!
You can actually book it online
You can book your whale watching in Mirissa in person, once you get there. Alternatively, if you would rather avoid the whole bargaining game and feel pressed for time, you can book it directly online here.
Most operators now strive to act responsibly
Sri Lanka has a long way to go in terms of responsible tourism and animal welfare. Though activities such as elephant rides are no longer promoted publicly, they still occur. And safaris in national parks are not exactly run in a way that is not intrusive to the animals.
That’s why I was a bit concerned before going whale watching.
I must say that, despite all my reservations, I was positively surprised. Though various boats go out in search of whales every day during whale watching seasons, they strive to maintain a respectful distance from the whales and to keep a healthy balance so that on the one hand passengers get a wonderful experience and on the other whales are left alone and safe.
Most operators now abide by the rules set out by the Whale And Dolphins Conservation Society for responsible whale watching.
Raja And The Whale is the best known operator for being responsible.
You must respect other passengers
Once you get on board of the boat for your whale watching expedition, you will be encouraged to keep to your seat. The point that the staff on the boat wants to make is that if all passengers keep their seat, all of them will have a good experience – boats normally turn around to make sure that all passengers have excellent opportunities for photos. Just make sure to respect others and their space. You are all there for the same reason!
You will get food and water during tour
Whale watching in Mirissa departs really early in the morning, so chances are that you won’t be able to have breakfast in your hotel before you go. The good news is that you will be given food and drinks on board – usually some sandwiches and lots of fruits, as well as bottled water. Make sure to bring some extra snacks just in case.
You may get motion sick
Boats don’t usually go out when the sea conditions are not ideal but you may get motion sick all the same. Take some motion sickness pills with you, just in case. If you are prone to motion sickness as much as I am, make sure to take your medication about half hour before getting on the boat. Most motion sickness pills will make you a bit drowsy, but the excitement of seeing whales in their natural environment will definitely keep you awake!
You need to bring a good camera
If you want to take photos during when whale watching in Mirissa, you really need to bring a good camera, with a good long lens so that you can also capture them when moving in the distance. I use a Nikon DS3300 with a 70-300 mm lens.
Other Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To Mirissa
Where to stay in Mirissa
Mirissa has some excellent accommodation options and you will definitely find something to match your budget and taste – whether you stay in town or in the nearby Weligama.
This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Mirissa Sri Lanka:
- Weligama Bay Marriott Resort and Spa is a very good modern hotel on Weligama beach, with a wonderful pool, rooms facing the ocean, a fabulous restaurant and a bar that makes excellent cocktails. There even is a travel desk. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Colours Hostel is perfect for budget travelers. It’s very close to the beach. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Peacock Villa is a great guest house with spacious comfortable rooms and a gorgeous garden. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Mirissa
Sri Lanka is easy to visit, but if you have no time to plan your trip, you can count on some excellent guided tours. I have selected the best tours on the market for you:
- Sri Lanka encompassed – a 14 day G Adventures tour visiting all the most popular places to visit in the country, including Mirissa.
- Sailing Sri Lanka – South Coast – an 8 day G Adventures tour great if you enjoy sailing.
- Sri Lanka land and sea – a 14 day G Adventures tour with a great combination of land trips and sea trips.
How to get to Mirissa
There’s no airport in Mirissa, but it is easy to reach by public transportation from any place in Southern Sri Lanka.
To get to Mirissa from the airport you can take a private transfer. Alternatively, take the bus to Matara and from there a tuk tuk to Mirissa.
From Galle, take one of the many buses headed to Matara and get off in Mirissa. Although Mirissa is only 36 km away from Galle, it can take up to 2 hours to get there, depending on traffic.
From Ella, take a bus headed to Matara and then a tuk tuk from there. You can also take a bus to Badulla and get off in Mirissa. The overall journey will last around 4 hours.
How to move around Mirissa
Mirissa is best visited by tuk tuk. Remember to haggle the prices!
Other useful information
Make sure to research whether you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. If you are a United States, Canada and one of the EU countries national you will get a visa waiver, meaning you still need to apply for a visa, but you won’t have to pay for it. If you are from a country for which a visa is required, you can easily apply for your visa online here.
Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip to Sri Lanka. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Further readings about Sri Lanka
- 9 Fabulous Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One Not To
- 20 Fabulous Places To Visit In Sri Lanka
- 19 Things To Know Before Visiting Sri Lanka
- Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
- A Guide To What To See And Do In Trincomalee Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide To Kandy, Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Sigiriya Sri Lanka
- A Great Guide To Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Most Unique Temples In Sri Lanka
- What To Wear In Sri Lanka
- 13 Incredibly Cool Things To Do In Colombo
- A Very Useful Guide To Ella Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Bentota, Sri Lanka
- Food In Sri Lanka: 25 Delicious Dishes You Should Try
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine.