Of Blue Whales and Turtles: A Slow Hourglass in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka is a well-kept secret. In the space of a few days, I helped a baby turtle hatch, watched some of the most venomous snakes in the world up close, (without a glass pane in between!), and got to see not only a a huge pod of dolphins, but also the planet’s largest animal– a blue whale.

We stayed at Mirissa over the weekend, and if you ever find yourself there, I recommend the Mandara resort. After you get over the slightly run-down rooms and slow service (they do try hard to make your stay comfy, but at a holiday pace), you'll enjoy the gorgeous views (the sunsets are incredible), the quiet beach, and local cuisine catered to your taste.

Mirissa Sunset snapshot, taken from my Balcony at the Mandara Resort

We stayed at Mirissa over the weekend, and if you ever find yourself there, I recommend the Mandara resort. After you get over the slightly run-down rooms and slow service (they do try hard to make your stay comfy, but at a holiday pace), you’ll enjoy the gorgeous views (the sunsets are incredible), the quiet beach, and local cuisine catered to your taste.

The staff also takes care of the night-time guests on their beach-- turtles. If a turtle lays eggs on the Mandara beach, the eggs are protected for 45 days, and then once they hatch, the baby turtles are sent off to the sea, thus protecting them from various predators. I got to pick up the babies, and watch them scramble into the sea.

Holding a baby turtle, just hatched

The staff also takes care of the night-time guests on its stretch of the beach– turtles.

If a turtle lays eggs on the Mandara beach, the eggs are protected for 45 days, and then once they hatch, the baby turtles are sent off to the sea, thus protecting them from various predators.

I got to pick up the babies, and watch them scramble into the sea!

Newly Hatched Baby Turtles

Newly Hatched Baby Turtles

Dewmini's Roti Shop

Dewmini’s Roti Shop

If you eat at only one place in Mirissa, make it the Dewmini Roti Shop. Despite their rather unglamorous name, their food is definitely something to write home about.

The range of their scrumptious roti is simply amazing. Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor know what they’re talking about when they recommend this tiny place.

We also went to a snake farm: and here are some of the occupants we met:

The video is shaky because I kept running away– the snakes were not defanged (the handler showed us the fangs on a Russel’s Viper), and I’m not brave.

An angry white cobra at Mirissa, one of the most beautiful snakes I've ever seen

An angry white cobra at Mirissa, one of the most beautiful snakes I’ve ever seen.

I’m not a fan of snakes kept in captivity, but it is better than killing them outright — which is what most people around the world do. The farm is in a village on a hilltop, where tiny farms and homes jostle against each other– snakes are so plentiful that I saw one on the way up, and another came swirling by as the handler was showing us the regulars. Both were non-venomous, thank God!

But the best was for the last: the blue whales. We could see the spouts at a distance of almost a kilometer, and as we drew closer, we could see their glistening blue-black bodies ease gently into the sea and the humongous tail followed right after. The blue whales are shy creatures, not curious like greys — but the thought that something so huge, intelligent, and alive was right next to our boat brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing that they do not overturn even the smallest of fishing boats by accident.

Our captain was a whale-lover, and if you go to Mirissa, I would recommend you go with Raja and the Whales-- knowledgeable crew, who did not harass the whales like I saw the other boats do, but still got us as close as 20 feet to the planet's largest animal. Blue whales get easily stressed, are endangered and reproduce at a slow rate. They need all the consideration they can get.

This Blue whale was within 30 feet of our boat!

Our captain was a whale-lover, and if you go to Mirissa, I recommend you go with Raja and the Whales– knowledgeable crew, who did not harass the whales like I saw the other boats do, but still got us as close as 30 feet to the planet’s largest animal. Blue whales get easily stressed, are endangered because they were hunted to near-extinction, and reproduce at a slow rate. They need all the consideration they can get.

Sri Lanka definitely makes the hourglass turn slow. I was so dazed and awed most of the time, I took very few pictures. All the pics above are from my husband’s camera. If you live in Asia, or are planning on traveling here, please don’t miss Sri Lanka. It has so much more to offer, in terms of beautiful beaches and jungles, awesome fauna, gastronomy, ease of travel, and friendly, smiling hosts, we plan to visit Sri Lanka again.

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20 thoughts on “Of Blue Whales and Turtles: A Slow Hourglass in Sri Lanka

    • There are snakes, but they are mostly where they should be — in the wild, and in the outskirts of the villages. Hope I didn’t give an impression that Sri Lanka is crawling with snakes :)

    • Lol Alex, don’t be such chicken :). The snakes were scary, yes, but they weren’t everywhere — only at the snake farm, where we sought them out. It is quite possible to travel in Sri Lanka without ever setting your eyes on one.

  1. Just knowing snakes were there would be enough to scare her off. She won’t even look if they show a snake a TV. If I say “snake” she freaks. She is phobic about snakes.

  2. A most lovely post but admit I didn’t watch the snakes.
    I am Yvonne from Yvonnes Poetry Corner and am one of Arlee Bird;s Ambassadors for the A to Z Challenge. I look forward to reading more of your work during the Challenge.

    Enjoy your week-end.
    Yvonne.

  3. What an exotic place with so much wildlife! My husband would have loved the turtles and I would have loved to see the blue whale, and I suspect he would be taking the pictures, too, while I would be the one full of awe…

  4. Oh, I think I’ll have to break down and start a bucket list, just so I can put “Visit Sri Lanka” on the top of it. This would be my dream trip! (Well, I could do without the snakes, but I would accept the snakes for the pleasure of the rest!

    Thanks for sharing the trip with us!

  5. Thanks for sharing your travels, photos and nature stories. I’ve seen humpback whales, but would love to see blue whales, too. I would love to see newly hatched baby turtles. Sri Lanka sounds like a great place to visit!

    Do they raise the snakes at the farm or is a sanctuary?

    In Tasmania, we were hiking when we encountered a Tiger snake, which is a relative of the cobra and very deadly. It reared up and showed its hood. We took off running in the opposite direction and got into our car. That was the end of our hiking.

    We later went to an animal park where they raised Tasmanian devils and displayed other Australian animals. They had a lot of Tiger snakes there, rescued from a farm when the owner no longer wanted them.

    I’m going to watch your snake video now.

  6. I travelled to Sri lanka with the specific plan to try and see Blue whales and I was not disappointed. After a 2 hour, bumpy steam into the waves, I was rewarded with at least 10 sightings, some very close. I think this was in some respects due to the expert and responsible way that the captain positioned the boat and cut the engine at the right time. A good breakfast is included in the price, but I would recommend eating it on the way back as most people see it again very quickly. The crew offer a sea sickness tablet. Take it. You will probably need it. I would try to sleep on the 2 hour journey to the continental shelf, it is real rocky going into the waves and it is still early (you must be ready to go at 6-30). Once out there the sightings come thick and fast and it is definitely worth a little sickness. To be out there with the largest animal to have ever existed is humbling and exciting. All too soon we set off back to port. The trip back in is much smoother and gives a chance to spot dolphins, turtles and flying fish.This trip was so good and did it twice and was rewarded with 10 whales both times. Well recommended.

  7. The baby turtles are so cute. :)
    You got to see blue whales! So cool. When I went whale watching, a year ago, I got to see some Humpback Whales off the coast of California.

    Nice post. I’ve been wanting to see Sri Lanka. :)

  8. I let my wife read this blog like me she likes it but as she is no lover of snakes – having been bitten by one of our venomous little devils – she said to tell you ‘your a better girl than she is gunga din’. The whales must have been wonderful.

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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