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Our last week in Mirissa

all seasons in one day 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:36 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (1)

Mirissa photoblog

Two more weeks in paradise.

all seasons in one day 34 °C

Since our last post we are still enjoying waking up to a stunning view every morning.

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The weather on the South coast has been erratic at the least and we have had some huge storms. The thunder is so loud you can feel it booming in your chest and the lightning lights up our whole beach hut. One morning after a particularly bad storm we woke up to severe damage further down the beach where half the sand had been washed away to reveal foundations more than five foot high.

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These have been sporadic however and we have had some days lovely sunshine and others overcast and drizzly. In between this Chelsea had her second surf lesson and did a lot better, standing up most times. Liam went out on his own while Chelsea was having her lesson and the current was super strong again. By the time we had been surfing for an hour we were seriously Knackered and it took two days to recover. We have been surfing since, both on our own and are slowly getting better. We have to wait for good weather because, rainy and its too rough and sunny and we get crozzled by the sun, it has to be dull so we have been going late afternoon when the suns heat dies down. We are hoping to go a few more times before we leave.

Chelsea has enjoyed the appearance of a new puppy next door to our hut that wandered out and then wouldn't leave us alone and sat at the bottom of our steps and didn't want to leave.

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We also heard from our guesthouse that further down the beach is a good snorkel spot as it is calmer so we decided to go on an explore. It is very quiet and we walked a few coves on.

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Right at the end of our beach there is an island that you can wade out to and climb.

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There are sea breaks protecting more upmarket resorts which were covered in crabs.

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On route we picked up a new friend in the form of a dog who started walking with us. She walked with us the whole way and when we finally reached the snorkel spot two coves on we went to explore and she sat and waited. We didn't snorkel as it was too overcast but decided to go back when it was sunnier. On the walk back she was still sat there and she rejoined us for the walk back to Mirissa beach.

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The coves further on are devoid of tourists sunbathing or swimming and there were a lot of friendly locals enjoying the sea. The beach was lined with thin and colourful fishing boats nestled between the palm trees.

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We have also tried bodyboarding as it is very popular on our beach and we have be watching people for weeks.we rented a boad from a nearby guesthouse for 200rs and had a go.

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Chelsea absolutely loved it and we had loads of fun with it, especially when Chelsea caught a huge wave that took her right in and beached her. We will defiantly be doing more bodyboarding before we leave.

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The last few days have been amazing weather and w have enjoyed laying in the sun and swimming. We decided to try our snorkel spot again and walked back down the beach. The beach a few coves on is covered in broken shell and bits of white coral it is beautiful.

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The rental place only had one mask left so we had to take it in turns. There is a sea break so the whole cove has no big waves and is calm and deep.

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Liam went first while Chelsea laid on the sand and waited...... He didn't sea anything except rocks and sand.

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Chelsea went next and Liam swam with her. She saw some sea grass..... and some rocks and sand.

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On the surface however she saw what looked like a dorsal fin to which we both promptly almost pood our pants and ran out. The splashing we made would hundred percent have attracted a shark if there was one but when we got out we saw in two more times and decided it was a big turtle head and Liam went back in to see if he could find it. He didn't see anything new except a big lobster but we had fun and might go back for another try.

On the walk back running around the broken shells and coral were tiny hermit crabs which we enjoyed watching.

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We have around one more week on the beach before we head off to explore more of Sri-Lanka. We are planning on enjoying some more surfing and bodyboarding, swimming and relaxing in the sun.

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:17 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (3)

Our week in pictures, Mirissa

all seasons in one day 31 °C

Our first week in our little green house has been lovely and we have thoroughly enjoyed living on the beach.

Our time has been spent playing in the huge waves and relaxing on our balcony. We have acquired some new friends in the form of pesky squirrels. At least twenty a day run through our house and walk around our balcony. It is no problem unless you have food. One managed to eat half of Chelsea's watermelon, chewing through two plastic bags to get to it..... its safe to say Chelsea is no longer friends with our squirrel neighbours.

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At the beginning of the week Liam had his first ever surf lesson. We were taken to the next bay, Welligama for the lesson as it is a safe beginners beach to surf on. It is not too deep and the seabed is sandy. He learned the theory of how to stand up on the beach and then it was time to try it in the sea. He managed to stand up loads of times and is hoping to practice more while we are here for a month and take advantage of the waves on our beach.

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Check out his celebrating on his first successful stand up.

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He really enjoyed it and they took him further out to try some bigger waves half way through the lesson.

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He managed to surf properly a lot of times and can try on his own next time.

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Chelsea went along to watch and thought it looked fun so booked a lesson for later in the week.

Between our sea and sand fun however Liam managed to get bit by a dog, it is only really tiny and you can hardly see the mark but we went to the medical center across the street to be safe and were old to go into Matara the next day for anti-rabies treatment. Matara is the next town on, only around 12km away. We caught the bus to the vaccination center and were shocked by how clean and modern it was. They told us however they do not have the resources for anti-rabies and sent us to the general hospital. This was not a clean, modern hospital but looked like a hospital out of the 1950's. No computers in sight and a ticket system like Argos. The whole place was packed and we were taken to a few different rooms and through what looked like a very confusing system and Liam was given an anti-rabies injection. To his dismay the wound was labeled 'superficial'. We have been twice this week and need to go another 2 more times to finish the treatment. The craziest thing about the whole hospital is the stray dogs inside the anti-rabies area of the hospital just chilling out on the floor. Liam is ok though and on our trips to Matara we have been buying fresh fruit from a friendly man with a stall in town.

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Also in the middle of the beach is the coastguard and at the back the Turtle Conservation project, we previously visited in Rekawa, has six tanks with turtles rescued in them. We have visited several times on our way past to say hello to all the little fellers and we thought it was a bit sad. We were not sure why they were there, as only one seemed to be rescued and the rest looked ok. Also the tanks were not very big and we didn't really think it was fair but we decided to call in at feeding time to find out more. A man from the coastguard was feeding them with small sardines and we were the only people watching. He let us help him feed all the turtles and he obviously cares a lot for them. He explained why they were there and which ones would be going back into the ocean. Only one can't go back and it has to be kept here as it has to have injections several times a week as it is very sick. It has been caught in a net and so has a fin missing and can no longer dive to the bottom so it just floats around. The rest are being looked after and will be released back into the ocean. It was lovely to feed them all and find out about them and we really enjoyed it. there is several green turtles, a hawksbill and an olive ridley.

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Later on in the week it was time for Chelsea's lesson. She learned the theory and then they went straight out to try.

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She fell off a lot....

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and a lot more.....

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and a lot more....

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but eventually after another beach based lesson of how to stand up....

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She stood up!!

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She only grasped the hang of it towards the end of the lesson and as the current was very strong it was difficult so she has to go back in a few days for another lesson free of charge.

Apart from sunning ourselves on the beach, swimming and surfing we have not really done anything. We have enjoyed some amazing seafood and sunsets, giant prawns, a whole barracuda to share, and all different fish, crabs and shellfish. The choice is different everyday depending what they catch and delicious, and fresh.

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There is a small local restaurant in town where Liam can gorge himself on a mountain of curry for breakfast so everyone is happy.

Posted by Chelsandliam 00:54 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged surfing sri_lanka mirissa Comments (2)

Finding our new home in Mirissa

sunny 35 °C

We left Colombo first thing Tuesday morning, and jumped on the local bus again. It was a hell of a long ride back to Mirissa but was worth it when we finally stepped back on to the beach.

We found a room to stay in, dumped our bags and went to look for a place we could call home for a month. We did have something in mind, a little green bungalow on stilts that sits on its own on the western side of the bay. We had seen it the last time we came and thought it would be amazing to stay there. We were not even sure if it was tourist accomodation, or if it was who even owned it. If we managed to find that out we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to afford it, but if you never ask you never know.

It sits next to a small restaurant and that seemed as good a place as any to ask. Turned out they did own it. Next came the price, normally Rs3000 a night, which is cheaper than we thought but still that is half a days budget for us, it is too much. We asked if they would give a discount as we wanted to stay long term. 'How long?' they asked, when we told them a month the guy looked surprised and then proceeded to think about it for a long time. Finally he said we could stay for the month for RS70000 or £350, less than £12 a day. We could not argue with that. We had to wait until Thursday for it to become unoccupied and we had not seen the inside yet but we left happy.

We past the remainder of Tuesday and Wednesday relaxing on the beach. Cheap, awesome Jumbo prawns were back on the menu and we went straight for them Tuesday night. Wednesday we headed to the local town of Weligama, a 10 minute and 10p bus ride away to restock on cash and supplies that we will need over the coming weeks. We were back by 1 pm and wasted no time crashing onto the beach, baking in the sun before cooling off in the sea.

We were out of our room early this morning, eager to see the inside of the bungalow, hoping it was as nice as the outside, or at least nice enough for us to live in for a month. We had to wait for the previous tenant to depart, and we passed the time with a terrible breakfast and a litre of tea. When we finally got chance to see inside we were more than happy. A four poster bed sits inside a basic but clean room with windows and glass doors that open on to the balcony, the bathroom is the only slight negative, just needs a bit of attention but it is clean and we have easily stayed in worse. There is plenty of storage and the first thing we did was unpack. We have not taken everything out of our bag since the safari in July, it is fair to say there is a certain smell to some of our clothes that have lived in the bottom of our bags for 3 months.

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Our New home on the Beach

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Chelsea on our Balcony

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View from our balcony - look how close we are to the sea!

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:43 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (5)

Sun, sea and the Search for Moby Dick in Mirissa

sunny 34 °C

After our amazing late night watching turtles we decided to move on. We never normally spend just one night in a place but we were just to eager too see more of Sri Lanka. We checked out and sat in one of the sleepy cafes watching the sea to have breakfast. We ordered Sri Lankan omelette and they were fiery with fresh green chilies and full of herbs, tomatoes and onions. It was delicious and we washed it down with a gallon of tea. With full bellies we then made our way to the bus station, bought some coconut biscuits and water for the journey and set off on the bus to Matara. We had to change here and get another bus to Mirissa. We are now working our way back along the south coast towards Colombo on the west.

It took a while but the busses were not very busy compared to normal and we enjoyed our biscuits and the views of the coast.

Once in Mirissa we pulled up at the bus stop outside a guest house and were offered a room for 1500Rs. We are staying at Ayodhya and it is cheap and comfortable. We are the only guests and the family who owns it are very friendly and helpful.

We were not really sure what to expect from Mirissa as it just looks like a collection of guesthouses and a few shops on a road but we went to explore the beach.

The beach is a tropical paradise, a thin strip of golden sand, palm trees and waves. It is gorgeous and we wandered down the beach watching people play in the waves. There are lots of beach shacks to eat and drink at and many have tables on the sand. The sea comes right up to the shacks, wetting your feet with the warm ocean while you are sat. It is lovely. It's small and ramshackled but very beautiful and laid back. We sat at one of the shacks and shared a beer, admiring the view and talking in the sea breeze.

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We spent all afternoon walking in the sea and drinking at a few different shacks and came back to watch the sunset and have some fish for dinner. It is stunning and very romantic, with candles and tables for two. We went back early ready for an early start the next morning.

Our first full day in Mirissa we decided to book onto a whale watching tour. Mirissa is one of the best places in the world to see blue whales in the wild. We are too early for the watching season but it is still a good place to see whales all year round so we thought we would give it a try while we were here even though the chances are slimmer. We booked with Raja and the Whales as they have tons of amazing reviews and provide ethical and wildlife friendly tours for 6000Rs each. A lot of smaller companies get too close, disrupting the whales which may lead to them changing their migration patterns.

We were picked up from our guest house at 6.50am and taken to the harbour.

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The boat was nice and the crew were lovely. They brought around ginger biscuits and tea and we set off. They handed out sea sickness pills to anyone who requested and Chelsea had one as last time the sea was rough in the dive boat she wasn't well.

The sea was really rough and the small boat rocked from side to side and periodically slammed into the waves. Chelsea immediately felt sick and laid down. After some time Liam was sick. It takes an hour to reach the right depth that the whales swim at and then they search around for the whales. There was none in sight but we kept searching. We had a plate of fresh fruit each and some eggs and bread and the crew give out water. It's an excellent service and the young men manning the boat can't do enough for you.

We were out on the sea for around five hours and unfortunately we didn't see any whales. The crew think they were just too far out today. Nevertheless it was a good experience and we got a full refund as we didn't see any whales.

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We would fully recommend Raj and the Whale for anyone wanting to go whale watching. They are professional and polite and they care a lot about the environment and the whales. They put the whales first and the customers second as to not disturb them which we like.

The rest of our time in Mirissa has been spent on the beautiful beach. All the beach bars have free sunbeds and we have enjoyed laying in the sunshine and playing in the huge waves. The beach is not very busy and it is really relaxing. In the day we have spent all day on the sand drinking cold drinks and reading and at night we have returned to the beach to watch the sunset and have dinner.

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Each place has small tables and candles and the fresh seafood of the day laid out for you to pick. We have had some amazing meals, grilled fish and jumbo prawns at one of the shacks further down the beach which has become our favourite.

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It is really romantic and the small cove is lit up with candles and you can sit right at the water enjoying the sound of the waves. Mirissa is not what we expected but has the balance just right for us. There is a lot of choice of bars and restaurants, all which offer the same meals but which have lovely atmospheres yet it is not built up or crowded. It's a little slice of tropical paradise which we will be sad to leave.

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Posted by Chelsandliam 03:41 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka mirissa Comments (2)

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