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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Having a Wild Time

It was October 2015, the tail end of the rainy season. We woke to a cloud burst emptying on to the roof of our veranda, splattering the mango trees and leaving spreading puddles in the grass. It was hardly a promising start to our much anticipated trip into Wilpattu National Park, but if we’d learned anything over the last week we’d spent in this verdant land, it was that although it rained EVERY day, it only rained for HALF of it. Therefore we were guaranteed a sunny afternoon, or so we hoped, grabbing our cagoules and splashing to meet our driver Rowland, who was grinning at us from under a sober, black brolly that would not have looked out of place in London’s square mile on a drizzly Monday morning (although his flip-flops would have caused a few raised eyebrows). In the rainy season (*)everyone in Sri Lanka carries an umbrella:, from the women selling fish arranged on swathes of burlap by the river in Negombo, the old man out for a solitary walk, dressed in a colourful sarong, the fruit sellers hawking green coconuts and pineapples at the side of the road, and alarmingly the cyclists, holding their umbrellas aloft as they cheerily weave an erratic path along uneven dirt roads, dicing with oncoming traffic. 
In Wilpattu National Park, settled in our open-sided jeep, we passed the biscuits around (it had been an early start – there were five of us, my family of three, Rowland and Sampath, the ranger we’d hired to drive us through the park. 
We shifted under our cagoules and peered eagerly into the jungle forest either side of the bumpy track, seeking signs of life. The bush glistened wetly, and dripped water into the puddles on the ground. At least the downpour had settled into a misty drizzle, but if there were animals, would they venture out? 
But the last few days had seen a lot of heavy rain, and Sampath was eager to explain, with lots of nodding and grinning and not a little interpretation from Rowland, that this fact would work in our favour: the animals hadn’t been able to hunt. They would be hungry and would brave the drizzle. As if to prove his point, he jammed on the brakes and pointed out a serpent eagle perched on a branch.

 This cheered us hugely and we scoured the forest, competing to be the first to spot wildlife – and it didn’t disappoint; another raptor on the ground wrestling with a small mammal or amphibian, wings flapping to balance. We greeted each new encounter; a jungle fowl (national bird of Sri Lanka), bee eater and peacock with the excitement of small children.



The game was afoot, and we abandoned ourselves to the hunt, cameras poised. The pace was erratic, one moment we were speeding along, like passengers in a rally car, pitching and bouncing in our seats, clinging to the metal rails and roll bars, peering into the undergrowth and then someone would see something and we’d come to a bone-jarring halt.
We saw monitor lizards, spreadeagled upon abandoned termite mounds, their grey stomachs stained with the red mud of the region, and spotted deer, creeping delicately from cover and grazing only feet away. 
Splashing about the park in our jeep, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. By now the rain had almost stopped, and the forest was gently steaming. When the engine was turned off, we were transported to a world of peaceful silence, and then gradually we became aware of the background noises, the constant chatter of birds, the rustle overhead of a scampering monkey, the distant bark of a deer, or the bellow of a water buffalo, and the rich perfume of damp earth and jasmin. 
Wilpattu is famous for it’s natural fresh water lakes, known as villus (Wilpattu means ‘Villu-area’ Lake-land) and they are quite beautiful, unfolding before your eyes as you unravel from yet another shady jungle track, so that for a moment your breath catches in your throat through sheer amazement. Herons stalk  the shallows, and flocks of white plovers lift off in unison, and then settle again a few metres further on, and on a little green island, smooth as a golf course, we saw a mugger crocodile basking in the slowly emerging sunshine, and, astonishingly to us, oblivious to any danger, an ibis had decided to forage right alongside it. 
After eating our packed lunch, (tip – never leave your food unattended because a monkey will steal it), 
IMG_8923we discovered an entire froggy civilisation existing on the fringes of the lake in the mud and as we walked along, they sprang into the water in a plethora of plops as numerous as raindrops.
If Wilpattu is famous for its natural lakes, it’s even more famous for its leopards, sloths and of course elephants. In fact Sri Lanka has around 5000 wild elephants, and the best place to see them is in a National Park (rather than an ‘elephant orphanage’ where they are captive and shown for profit). We spotted a bull grazing at the edge of a lake, tugging up weed with its trunk. It was a spell-binding sight, majestic and we watched him for over an hour, even climbing to the top of a viewing platform for a better look – a real treat. 
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By now we were getting blase about crocodiles, we had seen so many, to say nothing about peacocks, bee-eaters (so cute) and kingfishers, eagles and deer, but just as our day was drawing to an end, we had one ambition left – to see a leopard.
Wilpattu has the densest population of wild leopards in the world, and is one of the best two places in the world to see them (the other being Yala National Park) but that doesn’t make them easy to find. The Park is 75% dense scrub jungle, impenetrable for vehicles, so there’s only a small are in which to see an animal that specialises in remaining invisible!
However the sun was finally out, and the leopards would be hungry and likely to hunt. However the afternoon was creeping towards evening so we didn’t have long before we’d have to leave. It was tight, but Sampath had a good idea of where to look. We drove through some rough terrain, rutted and water-logged to find an area of grass and scrub cover, ringed with white sand – here he found what he was looking for…fresh tracks:IMG_8998
We parked up and waited. Nearby a herd of deer had stopped grazing and were staring nervously into the bush. One barked an alarm call and a pair of fox cubs popped their heads above the grass. We hardly dared breathe as we peered into the scrub, willing the leopard to slink into view. I was convinced I could even smell it: a musky odour that hadn’t been there before. 
Twenty minutes slid by and the deer settled again; the leopard had moved away. Sampath started the engine and jammed the jeep into first gear, throwing it over the pitching ground as we clung to the sides, scouring the undergrowth willing our leopard to appear.
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We made several lurching circuits of the sandy trails, glancing anxiously at the sinking sun. We were pushing the clock….
Sampath braked one last time, more tracks. this was our final stop, one last pause before he’d have to hit the accelerator and get us back before dusk. Across a narrow belt of water, a herd of spotted deer were on alert, staring raptly into the undergrowth. The matriarch barked an alarm. We waited, twitching with anticipation, but time was against us. The sands had run out. We could not wait any longer. The leopard had eluded us.
An incredible day I will never forget, and every reason to return….IMG_8996
*The rainy season varies depending on which part of Sri Lanka you visit when. Suffice to say, it is always the rainy season somewhere in Sri Lanka. As a rule, it can rain everywhere in October and November. The South West of the island gets rain May -September, the dry season being December to March. In the North-Eastern coastal region of the country, the rainy season falls between October and January, dry season being May – September. As we discovered, it rarely rains all day, downpours being short and heavy, and despite getting sodden once or twice (notably atop Sigiriya) we were never cold. Visiting in October meant cheaper flights, cheaper accommodation and less tourists. Also, if booking a jeep safari, bear in mind it can get very hot and dusty in the dry season. The period between December and April is considered the peak season to travel to Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Endless Summer of Sri Lanka


A tear drop shaped island afloat in the Indian Ocean boasts of a pristine coastline offering crystal clear waters, soft sand and tropical forests that form a perimeter around its unspoilt beaches. Welcome to Sri Lanka, where the sun always shines, the people greet you with a smile and the weather is perfect to lounge on the beach – all year long. A tropical haven, Sri Lanka’s natural bounty has long been recognized by denizens of the animal kingdom; man, or more accurately, travelers have only recently begun to acknowledge its unpretentious charm. Leopards, elephants, bears, monkeys, birds of mind-boggling variety, turtles, dolphins and whales are locals of this temperate paradise; infact Sri Lankan waters are part of an exclusive group that can boast of hosting whales all year round since time immemorial.
If the profusion of life this small island supports doesn’t indicate how special it is then perhaps its rich history and culture can stand testament to its brilliance. There’s so much to do and see in this tiny island that a traveler returning from a trip will inevitably sounds like a guidebook listing laurels. We’ll start with its capital Colombo, where most international travelers land. The most advanced and cosmopolitan city by far, Colombo represents Sri Lanka at its most modern. If there’s something to look forward in the capital it’s the nightlife, devoid everywhere else. From laidback pubs to thumping clubs (that tend to get a bit rowdy as the night progresses) Colombo is where everyone stops to party.
Head from Colombo to the island’s cultural triangle where ancient cities nestle under swaying palm fronds and coconut groves. Explore the cave temples of Dambulla or walk through the well preserved cities of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa, the civilization that’s credited for introducing Buddhism to Sri Lanka. For the more adventurous and less historically inclined, indulge in white water rafting or enjoy the stunning vistas from the vantage point of a hot air balloon. Hike to the top of Sigiriya, known as Lion’s Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site before making your way to cool Kandy with its cultivated hills and tea plantations. Hop on a scenic train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, the highest city in Sri Lanka. Walk across Horton Plains in the morning and enjoy the sunset by Nuwara Eliya’s picturesque lake.
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There are lots of national parks in Sri Lanka that house an amazing variety of wild life, take a day out to visit one (we opted for Yala National Park) for a bumpy safari ride before heading towards the coast. Depending on the time of the year, Sri Lanka’s extensive coastline is always open for business. In the winter when its east coast is wet with rain, Sri Lanka’s south coast welcomes tourists fleeing freezing temperatures with warmth. There are more beaches than one can count and accommodation that fits every traveler’s budget. Be warned though, Sri Lankan beaches have no night life, save a few popular spots closer to Colombo that have a strip of bars along the beach. If you’re looking to party, this is definitely not the place. But if you’re in the mood to relax, unwind and dig your toes in the sand, there’s no better spot. Choose from Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa (where most holidaymakers stop for whale-watching) or Tangalle in the south to Trincomalee or Passikuda in the east, Negombo in the west or Jaffna in the north.
Jutting out into the Indian Ocean also stands the Galle Fort, Asia’s oldest living fort. Walk under imposing arches to enter this bastion of security that was built by the colonizing Portuguese, further fortified by the Dutch, only to eventually fall under British control until the island gained independence in 1948. There’s a real sense of history that permeates the entire fort, from its narrow cobbled streets, preserved as they were centuries ago to its high rampart walls that were built from corals and shells, Galle is by far the most mesmerizing city on the itinerary.
Where to Stay
There’s no lack of accommodation options in Sri Lanka with prices starting from low as $10-12 for backpackers to eye-watering charges at resorts. In Colombo Mount Lavinia and Galle Face Hotel come highly recommended – Galle Face is more central but doesn’t have a beach even though it’s on the ocean. Mount Lavinia has a gorgeous beach where they serve the catch of the day at a beach side restaurant. Bentota’s Saman Villa, a boutique resort will transport you to a lush world of luxury with its sumptuous villas, two beaches and an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean. Spend a night in the Galle Fort Hotel in Galle Fort, an experience you will cherish for life due to its well preserved architecture reminiscent of colonial times (we also spied Michelin star chef Marco Pierre White staying at the hotel, working to revamp its menu). Another boutique resort that comes highly recommend is Imagine Villa, a small property 10 minutes by tuk tuk from Mirissa that had the most stunning beach we encountered. Earl’s Regency in Kandy is also gorgeous though choosing another property within the city that might not be as luxurious is recommended.
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Where to Shop
There’s tons of tea, cloth and handicrafts that you can pick up along the way in Sri Lanka. Barefoot is a great one stop shop for locally crafted house-hold items and has stores in both, Colombo and Galle. Don’t miss out on organic goodies at Spa Ceylon, infact don’t return until you’ve experienced one of its famous scrub and hot oil massages. For the fashionably inclined, Galle has the best boutiques with KK Fashion, Mimi Mango and The Three offering a trendy variety. Galle is also the place you want to pick up jewellery from (Sri Lanka is known for its gemstones, particularly sapphires).
Where to Eat
Stick to the local cuisine and fresh sea food in Sri Lanka. Most places, even proper resorts and hotels don’t have chefs that do international food well (we quickly realized this after ordering sushi at one resort, only to be served fist sized servings and frozen sashimi). Their coconut and curry leaf curries are divine, as is all the sea food they grill. Stop by the Ministry of Crabs in Colombo (voted one of Asia’s top 50 restaurants, owned by cricketer Kumar Sangakara) but remember to call and book in advance as it fills up quickly. Elita in Galle is another must visit stop on the culinary map followed by a little known restaurant called Asian Jewel Hotel near Hikkaduwa that serves the best curries we tasted in our entire trip.
Via TNS

Jetwing Hotels enters partnership with Germany’s Green Cooling Initiative

One of Sri Lanka’s largest hospitality brands, JetwingHotels, officially signed a cooperation agreement with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, to demonstrate climate-friendly and energy-efficient cooling solutions in the country’s hotel industry.

Refrigeration and air conditioning often makes more than 50% of hotel’s electricity consumption, and given the increasing electricity tariffs this results in significant costs. The electricity used for cooling is largely generated from fossil fuel combustion, therefore impacting the climate. Hotels are well advised to explore efficient and climate-friendly technology alternatives for comfort cooling and refrigeration.

Jetwing Hotels, a pioneer in implementing the latest in sustainable technology successfully applied for support at the GIZ Green Cooling Initiative call for innovative ideas. The Green Cooling Initiative is a global project funded by the International Climate Initiative by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and it is implemented by GIZ PROKLIMA – a program that advices actors in developing countries on climate-friendly and energy-efficient cooling technologies.

According to GIZ PROKLIMA, demonstration projects in relevant fields of application are key to inform political decision makers to take the regulatory steps to promote clean technologies. Further information can be found at www.green-cooling-initiative.org.

Planned activities include the set-up of an absorption chiller for air conditioning at Jetwing Blue, a measure implemented for the very first time in Sri Lanka at Jetwing Lagoon. The steam is produced in a boiler which will be fired with cinnamon wood, a byproduct in the country’s cinnamon industry which can be used as a sustainable crop.

Moreover, the cooling experts of GIZ Proklima will assess the current refrigeration and air conditioning applications in all Jetwing facilities in Sri Lanka and come up with a proposal for technology alternatives.

The analysis serves as a basis for a training of technical managers on how to optimise cooling systems, from small split air conditioning units in some rooms to large central chiller systems. The project will run until April 2017 and shall serve as an example on how hotels can take action to protect the climate and save costs by applying green cooling technologies.

Via Daily FT

Friday, April 22, 2016

Climate Change Agreement rooted in historic signing on Earth Day

Today's Earth Day theme is symbolic for an historic signing, crucial for our future. Photo: Chris Connelly, flickr.com

Think of trees and you may think of fresh air to breathe. You may think of trapping carbon and combating climate change, or of food, a livelihood, or of forest habitat for the wildlife you love. You may think of the inspiration you found whilst climbing in nature as a child, or you might think of a robust trunk and long-lived roots that extend beyond our own lives. However you think of trees, they are a great symbol for Earth Day this year, which marks a special ceremony.

Trees are as vital for the health of our planet as the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Today, on International Mother Earth Day (to name it in full), the UN Headquarters in New York hosts the largest signing ceremony of its kind in the history of the UN, showing the political momentum behind the global plan to combat climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be hosting this high-level signing ceremony, where countries will sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement – so crucial to the future of our planet – that was adopted back in December.

“Signing the Paris Climate Change Agreement today is a powerful demonstration of leadership and intent,” said Edward Perry, Global Climate Change Coordinator for BirdLife International. “It is encouraging to see that over 150 countries are registered to sign.”

Signing means committing to implementing measures to address climate change. The ‘Trees for Earth’ theme of this year’s Earth Day is symbolic for the day of signing, because only through considering trees will we be able to achieve the Paris Agreement.

“Protecting and restoring natural forests and other ecosystems will be fundamental to holding temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” says Perry. “It will also help protect vulnerable communities and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change, whilst giving nature a fighting chance.”

BirdLife urges governments to recognise that nature-based solutions are key to successful implementation of the Agreement. BirdLife Partners around the world are finding ecosystem-based adaptations to climate change that are truly working for nature and people.

Like the lifetime of the tallest tree, the impact of decisions made in the coming months will extend beyond our own generation.

No time to lose
Today governments from all over the world are taking their first collective step to tackle the climate change crisis. The next step will be to then take action nationally so that the agreement becomes officially valid and there are expectations that this will happen earlier than planned.

French President François Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will give speeches explaining when the Agreement will get national legal status, how they will raise the ambition of national climate plans, and who they will work with to deliver urgent climate action over the next 4 years.

After the signing, countries will need to take national action to ratify, approve or accept the Paris Agreement. This will come into force thirty days after at least 55 countries covering 55% of global emissions have done this.

“Interestingly, while the Paris Agreement was designed for post-2020, there is written that prevents it from coming into force earlier,” says Perry, “And there is a distinct possibility that this could happen.”

“It is ultimately action - not words on paper - that will address the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement was a critical and historic breakthrough in multilateralism. Now it is time for action.”

It’s time to look up into the canopy for inspiration, and seed action on the ground.

How can I help?
This year, Earth Day Network is calling on you to help achieve a very ambitious goal: planting 7.8 billion trees. For more information, visit the Earth Day website.


Friday, April 8, 2016

A Whale of a time on the Indian Ocean! - Trip Report by Tobin David

Tobin David toured Sri Lanka from 8th - 27th February 2016 with Jetwing Eco Holidays. Naturalist chauffeur Mahinda Jayasinghe was his guide.

Below is a trip report by Tobin of his whale watching experience at Mirissa.



Trip Summary

Travel Destination – Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Travel Date – 24th Feb 2016 – 25th Feb 2016

Animal sightings – Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, Spinner Dolphin



Photography Equipment

Camera – Nikon D810 / Canon Powershot SX60 HS

Lenses – Sigma 50-500mm OS

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A Whale of a time on the Indian Ocean!
Mirissa

I reached Matara on 23rd afternoon and checked into the hotel located within Matara fort. The evening was spent strolling on the beach and photographing the sunset.

The Whale and Dolphin watching cruises started early in the morning from Mirissa. Mirissa was a 20 minutes drive away from Matara. Therefore, I had an early dinner and retired for the night.

24th February 2016

Next day morning, we set off from Matara at 5:15 am and in the absence of any traffic, reached Mirissa within 20 minutes. My tour was booked with Mirissa Water sports, an agency well-experienced in conducting the whale watching tours. At the agency’s office, the tourists got themselves registered for the tour and were provided with packed breakfast & sea-sickness pills.

The tour boat was decent-sized with 2 tiers and could carry approx. 60 passengers. The lower deck had seats while the upper deck required passengers to sit/kneel on mats. I chose a seat on the lower deck at the front of the boat. The tour started at 7 am about half an hour later than scheduled. It was a bright sunny day and I looked forward to an exciting morning.

The coastline (incidentally, the southern-most point of South Asia) receded into the distance as we went further into the Indian ocean. The first hour was rather uneventful, though it passed by quickly, thanks to the anticipation and expectations of the sightings that awaited us.

At the hour mark (about 8 nautical miles off the coast), we heard the words we were longing to hear “Whales ahead!!!” The words triggered a current of excitement through the boat as everybody strained their eyes to catch a glimpse of the whales. We were puzzled as we couldn’t sight anything. Then the crew informed us that the whales were a good fifteen minutes ride away.

The crew helpfully explained how they spot whales. Whales breathe air into their lungs, through nostrils called ‘blow-holes’, located on top of their heads. The whales surface and exhale the used-up air. The act of exhaling, creates a water spout which helps whale-spotters detect their presence from far away. The shape of the water spout helps in identifying the whale species as well.

As we got closer, we could make out the water spouts in the distance. To our thrill, we could see several water spouts which indicated that there was a pod containing several whales. The crew informed us that the whales were Sperm whales.

Sperm Whales are the largest of the toothed-whales. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. They are known to grow upto a maximum of 67 feet (20 metres) and weigh upto 65 tons. Though, on an average, male sperm whales grow upto 55 feet (17 metres) in length while females grow upto 38 feet (12 metres) in length. (Source: Wikipedia)

Finally, we got close enough to be able to see the whales as they repeatedly surfaced for air, while swimming at a leisurely pace. The crew estimated the pod size to be about 20 individuals. The younger (read smaller) whales swam in groups of 4, while the adult whales swam alone or in pairs. The presence of several smaller whale groups allowed the boats to follow different groups without overcrowding.

The first emotion that I felt on seeing these giants was that of wonder and awe. These were some of the largest animals to inhabit the planet, several times bigger than elephants, the largest land animal. Yet, they swam so effortlessly and gracefully in the ocean waters. My gaze moved from head to tail and back, again and again, as my mind absorbed the immense size of these giants.

Taking photographs on the boat was tricky, to put it mildly. The boat was moving forward on the waves and at the same time rocking sideways. With both hands holding my heavy camera and lens, it was a challenge just to stand upright. There was risk of falling on the deck as well as the risk of falling overboard.

In spite of the challenge, I clicked away non-stop. The best photo-opportunities arose when the whales dived underneath. As they dived, they arched their backs and their tails were lifted clear out of the water. The tails of the diving whales were my subjects for photography.

After taking my heart’s fill of photographs, I put the camera aside and observed these magnificent animals for a long time, as they surfaced and dived. The whales had enthralled us for slightly more than an hour. We were so fascinated and spell-bound, we did not realize how time had flown by. Soon, it was time to say goodbye to the whales and set off in search of the spinner dolphins. The Spinner Dolphins are found much closer to the coast than the whales. Therefore, we turned back towards the shore.

The spinner dolphins get their common name from their behavior of leaping out of the water and spinning in the air. There are different schools of thought on why these dolphins spin. Some believe this behavior to be a part of courtship display, some consider these spins to be acts of communication while some others believe that dolphins spin to get rid of parasites. Whatever be the reason for the spinning behavior, the spinning dolphins made for a spectacular sight.

After a half-an-hour ride, we got our first glimpse of the dolphins from a distance. The crew used the clock position to indicate the direction of the dolphins. They shouted ‘Three’o clock !!!’ and everybody looked ahead to the right. There were a few dolphins swimming on the surface. Soon the shouts came loud and fast, ‘Eleven’o clock !!!”, ‘Nine’o clock !!!’, ‘Twelve’o clock !!!’, ‘Two’o clock !!!’.

The dolphins were coming in from all directions, left, right, front and back. Everywhere we looked, there were dolphins. The dolphins numbered in the hundreds as they surfed the small waves. Watching their synchronized swimming over the waves was a stunning spectacle. The dolphins were playful and were not shy of the boats in the area. Some swam alongside the boat while others swam under the boat.

However, we were yet to see the spinning behavior of the dolphins. And very soon, one of the dolphins obliged, as it leapt out of the water, spun several times in the air, before falling back into the water. The acrobatic display of the dolphin sent a thrill down my spine. It was a sight to behold.

Soon other members of the pod also started spinning, though not all at the same time. They repeated their spinning behavior again and again. Photographing the dolphins was not an easy experience due to several reasons, including the rocking boat, fast movement of the dolphins and not knowing from where the dolphins would surface. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable experience photographing these beautiful and athletic animals. After an amazing display lasting over 45 minutes, the dolphins finally swam away.

As we made our way back to the shore, there was a mood of happiness and contentment in the boat. Not only did the trip meet our expectations, it far exceeded it. The mighty Whales inspired awe and amazement, while the playful Dolphins stole our hearts.

I had a whale watching tour planned for the next day as well. I wondered whether I would be able to see the Blue Whale.

25th February 2016

After the registration formalities, the tour started at 7 am in the morning. It was cloudy and windy day. Because of the winds, the ocean was a lot choppier than the previous day. And sure enough, a couple of passengers became sea-sick. It was sheer misery for them as there was nothing they could do, but vomit repeatedly.

As far as the whale-watching was concerned, there were no whales in sight even after an hour’s ride. In such circumstances, the crew venture out further into the ocean, until they sight the whales.

As we went further into the ocean, the waves got higher. The boat rocked to and fro as it navigated over the choppy waters. Every now and then, we got soaked by a high wave. Some of the passengers moved to the back to avoid getting wet. I stayed put, as it was a unique experience to be soaked in such a manner. Though, I ensured that my camera and lenses were safe from the salt water, in a water-proof cover.

There were no whales in sight even after the two hour mark. On enquiring I was informed that we had travelled 16 nautical miles out into the ocean, twice the distance travelled yesterday. But within half-an-hour, we heard what we were craving to hear for the last two and a half hours, ‘Blue Whale ahead!’. The words were a huge relief to the ears.

Soon, we were riding alongside an adult Blue Whale. The first adjective that comes to mind when looking at the Blue Whale is ‘Gigantic’

Blue whales can grow upto a maximum 30 metres (98 feet) and weigh as much as 170 tonnes. These whales are bluish-grey in colour with a lighter shade underneath. Blue whales are the largest and heaviest animals on the planet. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Sperm Whales had inspired awe whereas watching the Blue Whale was a humbling experience. Looking at it’s sheer size, the Blue Whale made me realize how tiny humans really were.

Unlike the Sperm Whales that swam on the surface for a long time, the Blue Whale dived after spending a minute or so, on the surface. Each dive lasted for approximately 17 minutes. Therefore it was a waiting game followed by a couple of minutes of hectic activity,

Photographing the Blue Whale was proving to be a herculean task. Due to the choppy waters, the boat was rocking from side to side. So much so, when I aimed at the water, I ended up photographing the sky several times! I managed to grab a few images of the Blue Whale. After 3 or 4 sightings in 45 minutes, we turned back in search of Spinner Dolphins.

After an hour’s ride, we spotted a group of 15-20 dolphins as they rode the waves. But within no time, they disappeared out of sight. There were no more dolphins to be seen anywhere. That sadly signalled the end of the dolphin watching session. It was a big disappointment when compared to the previous day’s sighting. I felt sorry for the other tourists who had missed the dolphin show.

The difference in the tour experience across the two days, clearly illustrated how unpredictable nature and wildlife sightings can be. The saving grace, as far as I was concerned, was the Blue Whale sighting. It was my first ever sighting of a Blue Whale and that made it memorable.  The memories would remain with me for a very long time.

The entire Mirissa experience was a dream come true, thanks to the Blue Whale, Sperm Whale and Spinner Dolphin sightings. It was definitely worth a visit. And I had already started planning for my next visit!