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Whale watching in Sri Lanka

As well as being home to the world's largest land mammal - the elephant - Sri Lanka is also one of the best places in the world to spot the to the planet's largest creature - the Blue Whale - along with many smaller whales and dolphins.

Sri Lanka's whale watching triangle is made up of three sites across the country that provide the best opportunities for spotting these huge sea mammals. With Mirissa in the south being perhaps the most reliable place in the world for seeing Blue Whales, Trincomalee to the east and Kalpitiya in the northwest are also big contenders.

Situated within the International Whaling Commission's protected zone in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is well set up for boat tours that take you a short distance off its coast. Many tours are conducted by English speaking guides and you should check before you go that yours is approved by the Department of Wildlife - most are to ensure the well-being of the creatures.

Why is Sri Lanka so good for spotting whales?

As well as the sheer volume of whales travelling off Sri Lanka's coast at various points in the year, there's also great variety in the types of whales you can spot.

They include the illustrious Blue Whales as well as Sperm Whales, Melon-Headed Whales, Dwarf Sperm Whales, Large Baleen Whales and Toothed Whales. They'll float quite happily beside pods of dolphins and even orcas can be spotted here.

December and April is when the whales migrate between the Bay Of Bengal and the Arabian Sea past Sri Lanka, which is why these times are so prime in seeing the whales. And as the continental shelf breaks into deep ocean fairly close to Sri Lanka's shores, the whales can swim safely here and have access to nutrients that are more abundant close to the land mass.

The big three for whale watching

While whale watching is possible all year round off Sri Lanka's shores, the best time to go varies slightly depending where you are on the island. For the best chance of spotting the whales' blows and tails tipping out of the sea, it's best to go when waters are at their calmest. You'll need to be an early riser to get a glimpse as many boat tours start at around 6.30am, when the water is less choppy, and last for four hours or so.

Mirissa and Dondra Head

Perhaps the highest concentration of Blue Whales and Sperm Whales in the world can be found in the seas off Dondra Head between November and April, and in April you're almost guaranteed a sighting. Just along the south coast, boats leave from Mirissa to the whale-rich waters, and you're likely to also see Large Baleen Whales, Toothed Whales and Spinner Dolphins here.


Due to the deep water off Trincomalee Bay in the east, whales are able to swim very close to the shore and filming has even shown that they use an old submarine canyon to travel in and out of the harbour. Tours here are organised by The Sri Lanka Navy but as it's a secure naval base you may need a permit. You're more likely to see whales here between June and September, with July being optimum.

Kalpitiya peninsula

Travel just six kilometres off the shore of Kalpitiya past pods of hundreds of Spinner Dolphins giving amazing acrobatic displays, and you'll come across an abundance of Sperm Whales. The Blue Whale, Minke, Melon-Headed, Dwarf Sperm whales, and even orcas, can also be spotted here. As with Mirissa, November to April is the prime season in Kalpitiya.

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