One of the best whale watching destinations in the world

Whale Watching

With three key locations for whale watching along the coast to choose between, no holiday to Sri Lanka is complete without a spot of whale watching.

One of the best whale watching destinations in the world

The dedicated whale watcher will no doubt arrive fully equipped with binoculars, camera and field guide to tick potentially up to twenty-seven species of marine mammals off the list, along with a rich array of fish and seabirds.

But leave aside the science for a bit: Sightings of whales and dolphins are so frequent along these coasts, individually and in pods, and often so close to your boat, that tourists of all ages and interests can enjoy the sheer joy of encountering these magnificent marine creatures.

Location, Location, Location

Mirrissa on the south coast (near Galle), Kalpitiya on the western coast (near Wilpattu National Park) and Trincomalee on the eastern coast are the three whale watching hotspots.

In Mirrissa, the season starts from late October, but the best time for sightings is December to mid-April. Expect to encounter Blue whales, Spinner and Common Bottlenose dolphins on most sailings. If you are lucky, Sperm whales may also be seen, in pods of a few up to 50.

In Trincomalee, the season lasts from March to August, although Blue whales are regularly sighted here only up to early April. Sperm whales dominate sightings from March to August, with super pods often seen till April. Dolphins often swim playfully along boats.

In Kalpitiya, seasons are similar to Mirissa. Sperm whales dominate, and sightings of Blue whales is far less frequent. Spectacularly large pods of Spinner dolphins are regularly encountered. Kalpitiya is also a good place to observe pelagic seabirds.

You may be lucky to encounter some of the less frequently seen cetaceans in any of these locations, but identifying them accurately may require the help of the onboard naturalist. Note that climate and weather patterns affect marine mammal movements and migrations, so there are no guarantees of sightings just as with land based wildlife.


The island’s small size and widely spread attractions opens up the possibility of visiting at least 2 of the 3 locations on most itineraries. This is an excellent way to maximize your chances of seeing different species.

Even if you can visit just one location, if time permits, allow yourself the luxury of at least 2 sailings.

As a bonus, the beaches are lovely, and offer an excellent way to spend a relaxing afternoon and evening after your morning whale safari.

In Trincomalee, whale watching in the morning can be followed by a trip to Pigeon Island for snorkelling amongst the corals.

From the Director's Travel Diary

On my most recent visit in early April, I was able to visit both Mirrissa and Trincomalee, and saw Blue and Sperm whales in both locations in calm seas.

There was something so infectiously joyful about groups of Dolphins racing alongside, surfacing, diving, resurfacing, hugging the prow or the sides of my boat. An almost indescribably relaxed mindfulness, just living in the moment.

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