TRAVEL: Fun and ethical whale watching offered in Sri Lanka.

Known as one of the best places for blue whale sightings in Asia, Mirissa has an incredibly diverse marine life with an abundance of affordable tours which starts anywhere from $21 to $350 with a multitude of companies offering its services to tourists and locals alike.

Mirissa is the largest fishing port in the southernmost point of Sri Lanka, known for its snappers, mullet, butterfish, and tuna. Tourist accommodations were newly built in 1979, and tourism skyrocketed by 1980. One of Mirissa’s best-known tourist attractions is blue whale watching. 

THE SCIENCE: The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whale parvorder Mysticeti. Reaching a maximum confirmed length of 29.9 metres (98 ft) and weighing up to 199 tonnes (196 long tons; 219 short tons), it is the largest animal known to have ever existed. The blue whale's long and slender body can be various shades of greyish-blue dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. Read more.

Decades of industrialized whaling severely decreased the whale populations in parts of the world. They have yet to recover, and scientists believe that there are currently less than a quarter that previously lived.

Whales are becoming an endangered species, and it is worsened by unethical whale excursions across the globe. This is why ethical whale tours are very important to the future of these amazing species.

Although it is one of the best places to sight blue whales and other marine life, Mirissa has had a problem in the ethics of this form of tourism. It is well known that there are some companies that have engaged in unethical whale watching practices in Mirissa

Whale watching is an exhilarating experience, as one gets to experience and see one of the largest animal in the world up close. Endangering these animals for the sake of seeing them, however, is not the ideal way to watch these animals live in their natural habitat. 

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For one thing, boats do not always keep a safe distance when it comes to whale watching. Oftentimes, they will try to pursue them for customers to get a better, close-up view. This is not only unadvised as it could cause the boat to capsize if caught in the wake of the whales, but it could also injure the whales, which are now an endangered species. 

It’s also not uncommon to see boats racing after a single whale, attempting to get as close as possible. These boats often collide with the whale’s upper body resulting in great injury and causing great danger to their natural habitat. In addition to this, dolphins and other marine life are affected by these unethical practices as well.

Whale watchers keeping a safe distance ensure the animals’ well-being. (CREDIT: Dan Lundberg.)

There are responsible players in Mirissa as well. Ethical whale watching promotes a healthier and safer environment for both tourists and the marine life involved. By keeping a safe distance from their natural habitat passengers can admire the whales in their natural state, which is what whale watching should be, while also providing a sense of amazement and wonder. 

Although sightings aren’t always guaranteed, the odds of spotting blue whales are quite high. Visitors have known to get 10 sightings in their first trip and around 20 sightings on the second trip. 

Ethical whale watching tours usually last longer than unethical ones, running anywhere from 6 to 8 hours as opposed to the 1 to 2 hours which more unethical practices take,. That is more than enough time for tourists to get a sense of awe from these beautiful animals. 

Whale watching is an exhilarating experience, as one gets to experience and see one of the largest animal in the world up close.

So what you can do to reduce unethical whale watching?

Companies like the Whale Watching Club, Raja & the Whales, and Whale Warriors are some of the three most ethical whale watching businesses in Mirissa. Other tours also provide tourists with land whale watching tours where visitors don’t have to get on a boat to watch the whales. This is an ideal for some people suffering from seasickness or motion sickness. 

In the coming years more and more people will be practicing unethical whale watching in the future. It is up to the visitors to get themselves booked with ethical whale watching companies. That is the best way to ensure the safety of whales in the long run.

WORDS: Jovi Harrison.

IMAGE SOURCE: Arian Zwegers.

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