Up Close and Personal With Blue Whales in Sri Lanka

I never thought I would see a blue whale outside of the Smithsonian museum. In fact, I thought they were almost extinct. On January 23, 2012 I saw four pairs of them. Blue Whaleswere not even on my bucket list. When we started doing research on Sri Lanka we found out that about ten years ago, fisherman,and people living on a cliff overlooking the southern tip of Sri Lanka started reporting seeing amazingly large “fish”. Soon, scientists showed up and the “‘fish” turned out to be actually mamals. The world’s largest animals, the Blue Whale.

Saying they are big is like saying celestial mechanics is slightly difficult.

Our travel agent, (www.srilanka.com ask for Johann) set this excursion up for us. We were supposed to go out in a big trimaran that held maybe thirty people. When we got to the dock early in the morning, there were only 7 people. Truthfully or not we were told that the big trimaran had mechanical problems and we were put in a little panga with a 40hp engine. I did not care, I just wanted to see the Blue Whales.

We headed due south, into the Indian Ocean for over an hour.

We were way out of sight of land. There was only us and two other boats (both bigger) out searching the elusive mammoth Leviathan. I was worried that we might get skunked.

But then we saw one of the big boats change direction and stoke the coals. Our capatin wasted no time. Our little panga was much more maneuverable and faster than the big boats, which it turns out is desirable when you are hunting the Blue Whales!

These giants stay submerged for 30 to 40 minutes. When they come up for air, they do it rather dramatically. They first exhaust water through their blow holes.

This picture does the act no justice. The sprays they put up look like the fountains at the Bellagio hotel. They must shoot 50 feet into the air. The problem is you cannot be ready to take the photo,because you never know where they will appear. They swim about 30 miles an hour, so they could pop up anywhere. I was lucky to get this shot of the end of a blow.

So when they do appear, the boats out hunting for them start moving towards them. But they do not stay up very long at all, maybe three minutes. Our little boat served us well, and we were able to get close enough for a couple of decent photos.

After they blow they sort of roll at the surface before they dive again. It may not look it here, but this whale was over 100 feet long.

Scientists have somehow determined that a Blue Whale can put half of its brain asleep at a time (hmmm) so that it can continue to move and remember to surface for air as it needs to. Interesting facts for my readers!

After they have been up long enough to fill their lungs, they dive again, and the last thing you see is the tail.

Straight out of a Melville novel, eh? Tale of a whale? The flap of the tail on the water can be heard 100 yards off. I cannot describe the sound, with a more intelligent word than awesome.

Sri Lanka should be on any world travelers destination list. For many reasons. I saved this post for last because seeing Blue Whales up close and personal is pretty amazing, and something I know I will never forget.