2015 Trip report by Joshua Barton
BigAnimals team assembles in Colombo to get ready for blue whale diving in Sri Lanka.
Trickling in from India, China, Hong Kong and and Germany, everyone gets to the Cinnamon Grand Colombo and checks their gear, their batteries…
…and their alarm clocks: we have an early start
The team drives down to Mirissa and boards the SeaSprite II, a 32′ catamaran.
Just two hours after leaving port, we already have blue whales! Lot’s of them!
The water is not perfect, so we spend the day practicing technique to get near the whales, how to exit the chase boat quickly and quietly, testing cameras in the water, and plotting out strategy.
March 30/Indian Ocean
We head far out to the West, away from near-shore boa traffic, out to find blue whales in blue water.
Blue water: yes. Whales: no.
This is part of the drama of these expeditions; we take risks, try new ideas, and do things that others have not so that when we get results, they are the best possible.
But today, the risk did not pay off.
We sailed to Mirissa and headed over to the beach shacks of Mirissa Beach for dinner to drown our sorrows in piles of fresh lobster, tiger prawns and Sri Lankan curry.
Sitting there at night, under the stars, with the waves lapping near our table set in the sand, we all silently looked out to the dark horizon…
…out there, our whales were waiting to be found.
Success! we found five blue whales and spent the whole day getting good encounters.
That evening, we sail to Galle and head into that beautiful, historic town for a celebration dinner.
Another good day of blue whales. We have dolphins all around our chase boat, blue skies and calm water – it does not get better than this.
More blues – Blue whale diving in Sri Lanka does not disappoint.
This is a big day! 6 species in one outing! First, spinners and pilot whales; then some Risso’s; then a few hours of swimming with blues – and ending the day with 20-30 sperm whale.
The final encounter was outstanding; every time we got in, part of the group would come and check us out.
Once, two sperm whales actually banged their heads crowding in to see one of our tea,.
Big risk day. We have had whales, but have not yet had them in perfect blue water.
The team takes a vote: we will head East where we are pretty assured of whales, but not sure of blue seas; if the sea is not blue, we will head West like we did on day #2 – to blue seas but no assurance of blue whales. We may get nothing.
Even if we do get whales, the distance means we will not have much time once there before needing to head back. High Risk, but High Reward – that is a BigAnimals kind of team! First, in the East we find the whales, but moderate visibility.
We keep true to our strategy and leave whales that are in hand to head hours West to find blues in the blue. It is hard to stick to this strategy to leave – especially when whales are blowing spouts around you!
Now our resolve is truly tested: not great water, but SEVEN whales! We hold steady, we hold West. The further West we go, the more blue the sea, until finally we are sailing through emerald blue water – but we have not seen any whales in hours.
We scout the horizon. Some of the team bite their nails, some drift off to sleep from the fatigue of fruitless search. Suddenly, just when hope seemed lost, Team BigAnimals has a “thar she blows!” moment. A blue, 100m off our port side.
Then another on the starboard. Then another ahead. Three whales, blue water. It worked. Team captain thanks the whale gods and gets his fins…blue whale diving in Sri Lanka at its best.