Visiting the Blues out in the Blue

Visiting the Blues out in the Blue
jurassic park brontosaurus
A scene from the movie Jurassic Park

I’m not sure whether any of you have watched Jurassic Park, but I was just a kid when I did, and one thing that really stuck in my mind is that moment when Richard takes off his hat and his jaw drops at the sight of the Brontosaurus. The moment when we saw our first Blue Whale was no different as there’s nothing quite like the experience of seeing the largest animal to have ever roamed Earth up close.

Red Cliffs - The Bawa property
© Sean Stephen

It all began in the wee hours of a Sunday Morning. I along with fellow Red Dotters had stayed the night at a beautiful Geoffrey Bawa property – Red Cliffs. We didn’t see much the previous night when we arrived as it was too dark, but the beautiful 180 degree view from Mirissa to the Weligama bay was definitely to die for and left me wondering why such a lovely property has been under the radar.

After just a 2 minute drive to Mirissa Water Sports (MWS), our Whale Watching experts of choice, we collected our meal boxes and bottles of water and made our way to the docks close by where we were escorted on board our private boat. After donning our life-jackets, we took off into the great blue unknown.

The sun rises in Mirissa
The sun rises in Mirissa

The sun was just beginning to rise as we were setting out, and we caught sight of a few fishermen in their catamarans heading back to shore with their catch.

It was a long boat ride and the waters were choppy at moments. Even after we lost sight of the shore, the ride was quite uneventful other than a giant turtle who seemed to wave at us with one of its fins before going under and a couple of flying fish (who amazingly could fly over the surface for a good 30 seconds!)

Frolicking Striped Dolphins
Frolicking Striped Dolphins © Sean Stephen

We were closing in on the shipping lines a few hours later when it started to get exciting. A large cargo ship had just passed by and a small school of 5 to 6 Striped Dolphins were using the waves the vessel had generated for to show off their skills. They weren’t as acrobatic as Spinner Dolphins, but they sure looked like they were having fun.

Frolicking Striped Dolphins
Another dolphin having fun © Sean Stephen

After another brief lull in activity, our spotters shouted out to us and pointed out a tiny fountain in the distance. How they spotted it I haven’t got a clue as it all seemed like a sea of waves to me. We picked up speed and cut off the engines as we were getting close.

A Blue Whale makes an appearance © Sean Stephen

The waters parted revealing a vast surface much like that of a World War II submarine, creating powerful and awesome waterspouts that reached at least 5 to 6 times my height. We were told by our crew that the sighting would quickly start to draw attention and sure enough 6 to 7 other boats filled with happy snapping tourists began to close in.

A Blue Whale shows its fluke before diving into the deep
A Blue Whale shows its fluke before diving into the deep © Sean Stephen

Being the responsible tour providers they are, the crew of MWS decided it was best to move away so not to distress the animal and boy was it a great move for just as we passed the shipping lines, we came across so many whales that we couldn’t decide which way to go. On the day we spotted a total of 10 Blue Whales!

After our thirst for sightings was quenched and as we noticed the area was slowly drawing more and more boats, we decided to head back to shore.

A wave of Bottlenose Dolphins at a distance
A wave of Bottlenose Dolphins at a distance © Sean Stephen

A few miles later, we spotted what seemed to be a large wave, but as we drew closer we realized that the large wave was actually a 400 strong school of Bottlenose dolphins! What was clear though was that these dolphins were not frolicking like the ones we saw earlier, but were rather seemed to be swimming for their lives- the reason? A large naval vessel carrying up to 100 passengers was tailing the animals, sometimes causing the school to split and head in different directions.

The vessel which was steering sharply, sometimes overtaking the animals and blocking their route was a sad sight and highlights the reason why people who wish to be a part of this experience should choose a responsible provider even though it may cost a bit more.

Up close and personal
Up close and personal © Sean Stephen

Forget about bringing extinct dinosaurs back to life, experiencing the largest animal ever in its true environment is definitely something I will never forget and should be something we should all strive to protect.