Raja and the Whales – Mirissa

(Stock photo)

Did you know the Blue Whale is the largest creature on the planet, ever? Of course you did. Everyone seems to know that little stat. Did you know they are getting bigger due to global warming and the increased availability of krill? Or that their heart is as large a small car and beats loud enough to be heard from 2 miles away? Congrats if you did. We found out on our recent whale watching trip with “Raja and The Whales”.

Raja & the Whales was founded in 2008 by Raja (Rendage Sameera Madushanka), a former fisherman who stopped fishing to dedicate his life to protect the marine wildlife in the Sri Lankan part of the Indian Ocean.

We rocked up at 6am to buy our ticket on the specially made trimaran. Apparently the trimaran hull makes the boat more stable. Tell that to the girl who was making rapid visits to the toilet. At 6:30 with everyone onboard we set off into the calm protected waters of Weligama bay. We had been told to expect rough seas so a lot of people were popping sea sickness tablets in anticipation. We made our way to the top deck port side near the bow and strapped on our bright orange life jackets. No sooner had we sat down than a crew member asked us if we wanted tea or coffee. Of course Emily’s face lit up at the mention of tea and she sat there content and excited at the prospect of seeing some whales. Maybe you can even detect a little fear in the picture below?

About 2 miles out to sea an excited cry of “whale 1 o’clock” goes out and everyone rushes to the starboard side. The boat starts to list and the crew rebalance the boat by dragging some people back over to port. The skipper follows international convention and approaches the whale from the side so that we can both see each other. It’s a Brydes whale. Apparently named after the man who helped set up the first modern whaling station and therefore helped kill a lot of whales. Not sure that’s appropriate but history is tricksy.

(Stock photo)

We follow the whale as it blows 4 times then dives to feed for about 10 mins. It’s great to see a whale so soon after setting off but we really want to see the big fella. After 40 minutes of the same pattern the skipper breaks off from the Brydes whale in search of Big Blue.

He is constantly chattering on his mobile. Presumably talking to other boats to see if they have spotted anything. Meantime another crew member asks someone nearby if they want fried eggs or Sri Lankan omelette. They seem to ask a million questions and we both look at each other thinking the same thing. How hard can the answer be. He finally gets around to us and we both answer in unison. “Omelette and yes to chicken sausages”. We look at each other and laugh again “Nailed it”. Some people seem to make the easiest of tasks complicated.

The hunt for the elusive Big Blue seemed to take for ever. The tell tale signs are a massive blow hole and if you sight one a tiny dorsal fin near the tail. Apparently the blow hole itself is as big as a human head. One of the four spotters on the roof eventually spied a massive spout about 500m at 3 o’clock of us so the skipper turned to starboard throttled down. Just as we arrived Big Blue exhaled and dived out of sight. This one was shy.

We spent what seemed like hours catching glimpses but nothing quite like what we had dreamed of seeing. I think everyone on the boat was pretty happy we had seen a couple of whales but nothing spectacular and was still keen to head home. The skipper declared they would try one last sighting. So we sat and waited, cruised around, waited and waited. Then right in front of us. A massive lazy Big Blue. Seemingly dawdling near the surface. This one wasn’t shy. At last. We might actually get to see the famous tail as it dives to feed. We spent about 20 minutes following the huge creature before we were all treated to the money shot. Unless you are a Japanese tourist with a 7ft lens it’s hard to capture on an iPhone but in person it was glorious. We headed back to harbour happy with our 6 hours whale watching.

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