Have you ever wanted to go whale watching? Well, if Sri Lanka is on your cards, you can go whale watching in Mirissa. Mirissa is a charming, sleepy, little beach town on the South Coast of Sri Lanka. It is very popular with tourists and backpackers, and it is quite possibly the cheapest you will ever find whale watching. If you want to see whales (blue whales and sperm whales) on the cheap, this is your place!
Picture a tiny coastal town, packed with homestays, guest houses, hotels and hostels, local restaurants, as well as many restaurants serving western food at local prices, dotted all along the beach. The water is warm and safe, however, there are also big waves further out, making it very popular for surfers. The sand is golden yellow and warm, locals roam the beach selling juicy king coconuts, every night there is some sort of party happening on the beach, and almost all of the restaurants have a pretty alluring happy hour in the evenings! Mirissa, albeit a tad more expensive than it is in the surrounding coastal towns, is a beautiful, charming little town that you cannot miss. It is also, as I said before, quite possibly the cheapest place you will ever find for whale watching. Here’s how my experience went, and how you can do it too:
Which company should you go with? – whale watching in Mirissa
If you are an extremely budget backpacker, like me, then I really don’t think it matters what company you go with. Let me paint you a picture… hundreds of tourists flock to the whale watching docks in the early hours of the morning, trying to find their boat, that looks exactly the same as all of the others. Once everyone has finally found their boat, every single boat leaves the docks at pretty much the same time. The pack of boats seem to split roughly in two, scanning the ocean surface for any tell-tale signs of whale movement. Now, we wait, all together, in the same place on the ocean. Once there is a glimpse of action, the entire pack of boats race towards the potential whale at a snail-like pace. The boats are slow. This is where your decision of which company you choose to go with may be swayed! There are a few boats out there that can move SLIGHTLY faster than the other boats, and these boats come at a price!
Walk along the beach, and there will be many people selling their tours to passers-by, usually for around 1500 rupees (roughly $10 USD). Most of the companies are pretty much the same, offering the same services as all of the others. However, there are a few that are seemingly better, and of course, at a price! You may have seen on Tripadvisor a few companies that are recommended and have excellent ratings. They offer better breakfast snacks, a better boat that maybe slightly faster than others, and maybe more of a commentated outing. The price of a recognized company can be up to 6000 rupees (roughly $40 USD).
How to book – whale watching in Mirissa
It is very easy to book your whale watching tour in Mirissa. Along the beach in Mirissa you will find so many Whale watching providers offering tours for 1500-2000 rupees. You cannot miss them! There are so many companies, that you do not need to book days in advance! I booked my tour at 5pm, the night before the tour. Also, if you are desperate, you could turn up to the docks in Mirissa at around 6am and find a tour boat on the day.
You can also book your tour through your accommodation provider, but this will be more expensive as they will take a cut of it. There are also many whale watching tour offices along the main road that you can book through. If you like to be more organised, you can also book through a reputable company online, and on Tripadvisor.
Even if you are not staying in Mirissa, you can also book from pretty much any beach town along the South Coast of Sri Lanka. I was in Hikkaduwa and they were offering tours with transport to and from Mirissa! When in nearby Weligama, they offered me a tour for 3000 rupees with transport to and from my accommodation.
Questions to ask your potential company
- Does the price include pick-up/drop off?
- Are you on the top deck or bottom deck of the boat? Is the price different?
- Is there breakfast/water provided?
When to go – whale watching in Mirissa
The season for whale watching in Mirissa is November through to the end of April. I went at the beginning of March (March 6th 2017), and to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the numbers of whales we saw. It can be luck, whether you see many whales on the day you go. The day before me, people saw over 10 whales and tonnes of dolphins too!
Price – whale watching in Mirissa
The price for Whale watching varies depending on the company you choose and often whether you choose being on the top deck or bottom. The price of a tour from standard operators along the beach is generally 1500-200 rupees. The No1 provider on TripAdvisor charges around 6000 rupees!
I was set to go on a 1500 rupee tour, but my friends who were in Sri Lanka for a short-term 1 week holiday wanted the more expensive version booked through our hotel provider (2500 rupees). In fear of missing out, I caved and went with them :). To be honest, it was not really worth it! We only saw 3 whales, and our boat was actually a lot slower than many boats on the water. Lesson learnt.
Important tip: if you want to be on the top deck, make sure you make this clear with your tour provider and have a receipt or note from the provider to show the boat guide. We arrived at our boat thinking we paid for the top deck as we paid more than others on our tour. The guides told us we didn’t and had to sit on the bottom! Not happy. I heard it was better to have a seat on the top deck of the boat as it is better viewing. However, with so few whales and dolphins to be seen on our tour day, and never getting close enough to see them very clearly due to how slow the boats were, I don’t think it made much difference!
What is included – whale watching in Mirissa
For our 2500 rupee cost, we were picked up by tuk tuk from our accommodation, taken to the Mirissa Whale Watching docks and to our boat. The tour took about 3 hours, 2 of those hours being travel to and from sea. We also received a black coffee, small juice box, bottle of water and a small egg roll sandwich. The transfer back to the hotel was not included.
What did I see – whale watching in Mirissa
I saw two sperm whales and a Blue whale which was great! But three whales in 3hrs?? It was a loooong morning, and very hard not to fall asleep! Along the beach, tour providers put out charts saying how many whales and dolphins etc they saw that morning. Be wary! They said they saw hundreds of dolphins the day before my tour. I didn’t see one single dolphin!
Is it worth it? – whale watching in Mirissa
Even though it was a very long day, and I saw only 3 whales, it was still worth it! If you haven’t been whale watching before, Mirissa is a great place for it! Incredibly cheap, and the chance to blue whales!? You have to do it! Honestly though, do not feel like you have to take a more expensive or mid-range company. You are all going to the same place anyway!
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!! I’ll get back to you, I promise 🙂