Blue whales: the largest creatures on earth, bigger even than the largest dinosaur specimens found to date. It’s got to be worth getting up at 4.30am, right?
We’ve had some very mixed results when attempting to see wildlife on this trip. We must be the only people ever to have spent 41 days in Chitwan National Park and not seen a rhino. Most people stay 2 nights and manage to see a few. And the dugong watching trip was an exercise in patience, resulting in a 4 hour boat journey where we saw nothing but sea, and then 2 dolphins swimming in the sea right outside our guest house when we got back!
However, this has to be balanced against the amazing pod of dozens of dolphins we were surrounded by in the Philippines; the awe inspiring close encounters with orangutans in Borneo; and the rather alarming abundance of komodo dragons in Komodo National Park.
On balance, it had to be worth a try, and we selected a more expensive, (hopefully) ethically sound company who work to protect the whales, and (again hopefully) donate part of their profits towards this cause – Raja and the Whales. They guarantee you will see whales, by offering a free trip the following day if you don’t (and so on, until you do). But we were all hoping for just one 4.30 alarm clock, thanks very much.
As it turns out, our luck was in. Just 30 minutes or so into the journey, we were called upstairs. The children kneeled on mats around the rail at the front, and I sat with them, while Fergus managed somehow to stand up on the swaying boat, camera poised and at the ready.
“Wow!” said the crowd, and pointed! I saw nothing…where were they? Then a big “Oooh!” and everyone was pointing the same way and looking very impressed. But I could still see nothing!
“Mummy, it just came right out of the water, I saw it’s fin!” shouted Evie. Damn – I’m going to totally miss this, I thought. Then, suddenly, right next to the boat and significantly nearer to than where I’d been looking, I saw it – a spout of water, a shadow, and then suddenly, the huge bulk of the gigantic creature, slowly and gracefully arching out of the water, spurting water as it looped back downwards into the depths. Wow. It was seriously amazing.
The fun didn’t stop there. The crew were really knowledgeable, explaining that this one had dived deep now, would stay down for 7-8 mins and then come back up. The boat moved along to where they predicted it would be, and true to form it reappeared, this time with a friend. This pattern was repeated over and over, and we had countless opportunities to marvel at these creatures, and to take photos and vidoes.
Once all the passengers agreed we’d seen enough, we made back to the mainland, and were served a very ambitious and bouncy breakfast of eggs on toast en route. It was very strange to find ourselves back by our normal breakfast time, having had such an amazing day out, and yet having a full day ahead of us.
We took a walk through Mirissa harbour, where sadly, we were reminded that not all the businesses in Sri Lanka are interested in animal welfare by the presence of shark fins being brought in from the night fishing boats. How sad to see these majestic creatures slaughtered to the point of almost extinction for a status-symbol soup in China. As long as there is demand for the fins, who can blame the locals for making money from this? It’s a terribly sad situation.
The rest of the day was spent splashing about in the waves on the exceptionally pretty Mirissa beach, sipping tea in other people’s posh resorts, and eating prawns & chips by the sea. It’s a hard life travelling (actually, it really can be sometimes), but some one’s got to do it!