25.10.2013 - 03.11.2013 32 °C
Saturday morning we finally left our green beach bungalow. We were sad to go, it was so tempting to just stay there until we return back to England, but we have to make the most of our final month, and there are new places to see.
Our final week was more of the same, mainly sun, sea and sand, broken up with delicious fresh seafood and beer.
We went surfing one final time, the sea was a bit calmer we have not quite got the hang of it yet. We spent an hour or so falling off our boards and drinking sea water until we had had enough. We do have a lot of fun though and we are glad we did it. We don't know when we will get our next chance, and it is safe to say we need alot more practice.
The highlight of our final week though was our second attempt at Whale Watching. After our disappointment last time we were determined to give it another go. We got in touch with Raja and the Whales, the same company we used last time and booked on for Thursday morning, with a nice and early start of 6 am.
We were collected from our bungalow and taken to the harbour where we paid the special October fee of Rs5000 each. Since the last time we went Raja has bought a new boat, which is considerably bigger and more comfortable. We hoped this combined with the fact that it was nearly high season would give us a smoother ride than last time - but we took the free sea sick tablets offered just to be on the safe side.
The service was just as great as last time, with tea and ginger biscuits (ginger helps with seasickness) when we boarded, and a breakfast of fruit platter, omelette and bread when we were making our way back later on in the morning. In between the staff could not do enough for you.
The last time we went we were out a sea for around 4 hours and didn't see a single thing. The other people on the boat had never been before and were very eager, as soon as the boat pulled out of the harbour they were stood around with there huge cameras and binoculars hoping to see something. We just sat back and watched them as we knew it would take a while.
But not as long as we thought. Forty five minutes in there was a shout from a Sri Lankan tour guide. We did not undqerstand what he said but it was clear from the way the staff acted that it could be a whale, we were excited. The boat turned hard left and slowed as to not scare off any potential whale. Everyone was silent, looking in the direction the tour guide had said. The sea was surprisingly calm until suddenly a whale surfaced, announcing itself with spray from its blow hole. Us on board got told to be quiet, the whale was still around 20 - 30 metres away and the boar had slowed down to a couple of knots to get as close as possible without disturbing the whale.
We were told it was a Bryde's Whale. Similar in size to a humpback they grow to around 15 metres long. It was an incredible sight, getting closer all the time the whale takes breathes from the surface, while it swims just below. You can follow its movement as it leaves a 'footprint' in the water, large circular patches of perfectly calm water amongst the rest of the waves. We watched the whale for around 10 minutes, taking what photos we could with the boat rocking backwards and forwards. Then it dived. Unlike other whales the Bryde Whale does not bring up its tale when it dives deep, it arches its back and disappears.
Raja told us that the Brydes dive for about 8 minutes before they resurface for air so we waited. While we were waiting for the whale Raja told us about the work he does with the Whales. As well as taking out tourists for sightings he works in conservation and researches the whales. All his staff take photos continuously of the whales as they can be individually ID'd with there dorsal fin. Raja researches the whales migration patterns with the University of Matara and also looks into the disturbance of the tourist boats. As Raja is so successful with his sightings, other boats follow him and when he finds a whale they all swarm the whale, not adhering to the guidelines as Raja does. Raja's first priority is the whale, and while we were there two more boats appeared and as soon as they did the whale changed, and did not surface as often or for as long. Rajas big goal is to get a Marine National Park set up to protect the whales, there is a huge shipping land just off the coast, he said that 24 Blue Whales were killed last year with accidents including the ships, mainly because they are faster than the whales and simply drive on auto pilot. It was really commendable to hear the work Raja does and see how much he cares. We were very happy we chose Raja, knowing that our money goes towards his research and hopefully a better environment for the whales.
Once we had been waiting 6 minutes we were told the whale could surface again at any point. We were all looking out to where it had been before, but to our amazement the whale surfaced smack next to the boat, it took us all by surprise, no one had a chance for a photo but we were only a few feet away. So close we could look into its eye. Up close you could fully appreciate its size, it was easily as long as our boat. We then became aware that it was not simply one Whale but two, a adult female and juvenile we were told. The calves stay with there mums just like humans.
We watched the two Whales swim along for around 30 minutes, it was a truly unbelievable sight. Although it was not a Blue Whale, just to see a whale in its natural environment and to see it so close it was beautiful. We managed to get some photos but they do not do the experience justice in any way. We left once the other boats turned up and it was clear the whales were not happy. We sailed around for a bit longer hoping for another sighting but we got nothing apart from on false alarm. We were not disappointed though. On the way back into the harbour there was a huge school of jellyfish, huge purple and pink heads with 2 metres plus long tentacles. Our boat drove straight through the middle, so we were totally surrounded by different size jellyfish bobbing around.
We loved seeing the whales, it was a fantastic morning and we can not say enough good things about Raja and the work he does, we would recommend him again and again.
Friday our last day in Mirissa we spent making the most of the weather. The sea had taken another fair chunk off the beach just ourside our bungalow. In order for Chelsea to sit in the sun we had to put the sun bed in in the path of the tide, this was fine for around twenty mintues with the waves going under the sun bed and going back out. Suddenly though there was a particular huge wave than came in and totally swept Chelsea off of her sun bed, tipping the sun bed over in the process. The staff at the restaurant came out to see if she was OK, Liam was too busy laughing to do anything. She was fine, just a little red faced and laughing.
That evening the owner of the bungalow and restaurant invited us to a free meal with free drinks as a thankyou for staying. It was a good night, We had a few beers with our meal before the owner came over to ask us if we liked Arrack. Arrack is a Sri Lankan spirit, we had never tried it, the owner was determined to change that. We ended up sitting at the bar with the owner and a couple of his friends. A bottle and a half later we thought it best to stumble back to our hut and go to bed. Before going to bed however, Liam managed to slip in the bathroom and in his drunken stupor used his face to cushion the fall rather than his hands. He woke up with a swollen lip and a plaster on his face that Chelsea had applied in her drunken stupor. Overall a good night. We got a few laughs when we got up for breakfast in the morning.......
We are now in Unawatuna, we have come here to try diving one last time, it will be our last chance before we get home as in north where we plan to go next the rainy season is just starting. We have booked to go diving tomorrow and are hoping it is better than last time, even though the weather here can not make its mind up. We have managed to get in the same guesthouse as last time, and got a good price for the time if year as Chelsea remembered the name of the dog, which showed we had been here before.