Hello again and welcome as always to my blog series about a 2014 trip to Sri Lanka, my first of three to that lovely country so far. If you wish to read the whole series from the beginning, you can do so here.
I do hope you enjoyed my previous post about the wonderful time I had experienced at the Independence Day celebrations and where I promised you I had somehow managed to top it the day after. This was not hyperbole and if you want to find out what I did then please read on.
5th February, 2014.
I mentioned in that post that I had inexplicably woken up early the previous day and it was to be two in a row as I was again up with the lark at about 0530 but this was by design rather than accident as I had transport arranged for 0600 for my big day which was to go whale-watching and I could not wait. I think I really did wake up with excitement that day.
My tuk-tuk deposited me in a little restaurant in Mirissa where I managed a quick coffee to start the day although, as you can see, I had a few reservations about the weather which was pretty miserable compared to the glorious day the day before. I was met and escorted to the nearby harbour where I shall let my original notes take over.
This is the main attraction.
Due to a fortuitous combination of natural circumstances the coast off Mirissa is one of the best places on the planet for whale-watching with sightings almost guaranteed during the season which runs from late October until April. I was lucky enough to visit in February, right in the middle of it and I was certainly not disappointed.
My excellent hotel manger in nearby Matara had arranged the trip for me and there is no shortage of places to book a trip as just about any hotel or guesthouse will arrange one for you. There are various offices in the tourist centres also doing it. If you want to save a little money (the commission paid to the hotel or whoever) you can just go to the harbour early in the morning (before 0700) and negotiate a price yourself.
You won’t have a problem getting a spot on a boat as there are plenty of them, indeed it seemed to me that the whale-watching boats far outnumbered the fishing vessels that used to utilise the good natural harbour here.
I was booked on a boat called Whales Horizon 2, although all the vessels looked much of a muchness to me. Once on board you are served with a packed lunch and a bottle of water and you pick yourself a spot to sit as the flotilla of boats leaves harbour. I opted for the top deck on a gloriously sunny day and, even had we not seen a thing, it would have been a pleasant enough cruise.
Luck, however, was with us and we had four separate whale sightings which were remarkable and well worth the trip. I cannot say if there were actually four whales as I could not differentiate one from another but there were certainly two in sight simultaneously and it was a truly magical experience, the first time I have ever seen whales in the wild.
As well as the whales, we were accompanied for part of the journey by a pod of dolphins who were also wonderful to see as well as another creature I had never seen before, flying fish. I was completely astounded at how far they can actually “fly”, it was quite amazing.
I mentioned that luck was with us and it was generally but not specifically with me in one respect in that my normally reliable little camera picked it’s moment to play up and I did not get a single decent image of any of the wonderful things I saw for which I apologise. There were many people there with very large technical looking camera rigs and I am sure they got some wonderful results. It really is a photographers paradise.
If you are concerned about a possible negative impact on the animals, there is no need to be. All the boats adhere to a strict code of conduct for whale-watching and we were shadowed for most of the day by a coastguard vessel to ensure that everything was done correctly.
If you are in Southern Sri Lanka I would suggest that this really is something you should do, it is a simply breath-taking experience to see these magnificent and endangered creatures in their natural habitat”.
What a morning, and it was only a morning as we were back back in harbour by about 1100 which is an hour I am normally thinking about getting out of bed at but it had been well worth it.
I am not a huge fan of making lists lie “my ten favourite countries” or others of that ilk but if I had to make a list of travel experiences it would certainly be making the cut. If further pressed to water-related activities then again it is an automatic choice along with swimming with a baby dolphin off Great Keppel Island in Australia and diving round Koh Tao in Thailand.
I know that we are all evolved from fish many eons ago and I even have a tattoo that says Fish for completely different reasons but I suspect I must have been one in a previous existence.
What to do now? Chances were the bars wouldn’t be open and I had already done a day’s sightseeing before lunch so I decided just to have a mooch round the harbour as they are always interesting. I was so glad I had not picked the vessel in the large image for my trip! OK, surely the bars must be open by now, it was nearly midday.
I don’t know if all the bars were open but at least one was and that was all I needed. It was called the Coral Beach and here is what I wrote about it.
I had just been for a magnificent morning whale-watching which has to rank as one of the best experiences of my travels and decided I would have a little wander round Mirissa before returning to nearby Matara where I was staying.
I fancied a beer and picked this place more or less at random from a selection of similar establishments along this particular road. It was a pleasant place with a good sea view and obviously popular with surfers who I saw coming and going to and from their rooms.
Service was prompt and friendly and, whilst I did not eat there, a look at the menu showed a reasonable selection of local and Western dishes. All in all, a lovely place for a reasonably priced beer”.
I was obviously destined to have a day communing with Nature as somehow or another this little chap (chapess?) ended up on my hand. I know it is not the most beautiful insect in the world but it pleased me. I have to say that getting my camera out, turned on and the image taken with one hand whilst keeping my other hand totally still and with a few beers on board was quite a challenge.
I ended up with quite a few beers on board as it happens but it was a very pleasant place to do such a thing. I didn’t leave until after 1700 to grab a tuk-tuk back to Matara. When I got there I headed straight to the Samnamal, the Chinese place I had eaten before because the packed lunch had been fine but it had been a while ago. It looks like I had soup (they do an excellent soup there) and devilled chicken which was pretty lively. Look at the image and see how many chilli peppers and seeds are on it, happy days.
Obviously there were a few more beers taken, purely to cool the mouth from the chiili you understand, but sadly the entertainment had gone downhill a bit from my previous visit. Where I had watched cricket before, the offering this evening was wrestling which is really not a favourite of mine but it wasn’t a major hardship.
With the early start, the sea air, the food and the beer an early night was called for and I did wonder if it would be a hat-trick of early morning starts the next day, it was becoming a habit.
6th February, 2014.
Whether or not I woke up early on this day I honestly cannot tell you nor can I really tell you very much about anything that happened as I have one image for the whole day and you are looking at it.
It was taken at just gone 2200 which is late to be eating in Matara and I have no idea where it is or indeed what it is although it does have the look of a Chicken Maryland about it. I am rather partial to this dish and it is just the sort of thing I would order after a day sitting somewhere drinking beer which I strongly suspect is what happened.
Memo to self: Switch on, mate.
7th February, 2014.
I really should have taken my own advice to switch on in the paragraph above but obviously I didn’t as I do not have a single image the whole day, not one and even by my own appalling standards this is very unusual. Was I abducted by aliens and then brainwashed into amnesia? Unlikely. Did I sit in some bar (possibly my own hotel) and drink beer all day, not taking any images because I already had enough of that location? Much more likely so I shall ascribe it to that.
In the next post I promise I do go for a bit of an exploration both near and slightly further round Matara so stay tuned and spread the word.