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Ocean giants: How to spot Whales, Turtles and Dolphins in Sri Lanka

Sitting a stone’s throw from the equator, within the warm and fertile waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is home to a mind-boggling diversity of marine wildlife. From tiny, colourful reef fish to magnificent cetaceans, there’s a whole underwater world to discover.

Oliver Sjostrom
Credit: Oliver Sjöström

Our local waters are famous for whale watching, with the opportunity to spot blue whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, fin whales, Bryde’s whales, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins and much more. With such a wealth of marine wildlife, it’s important to ensure that any whale watching is operated through a responsible business.

Credit: Guille Pozzi
Credit: Guille Pozzi

Raja and the Whales is one such business — set up in 2008 by Raja Madushanka, a former fisherman who chose to dedicate his life to protecting the oceans. The company works alongside the Biosphere Foundation, the University of Rahuna and the International Fund for Animal Welfare on the Indian Ocean Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Project, collecting data to identify and protect local whale populations.

Credit: Iswanto Arif
Credit: Iswanto Arif

An alternative option for responsible whale watching leaves the oceans far below — taking to the skies in a whale watching seaplane instead. This offers a bird’s eye view of whales and dolphins splashing about below, whilst ensuring no disturbance of their behaviour.

Credit: Lachlan Dempsey
Credit: Lachlan Dempsey

Turtles are a little easier to spot on our shores: they nest on the southern coast beaches. There are many local turtle hatcheries looking after sick and injured turtles, as well as overseeing the safe hatching of new babies, and you can visit our local hatchery, Koggala Turtle Farm every day from 8am to 6pm. If you’re lucky, you could also happen upon a green turtle nesting on one of our local beaches if you visit at night.

Credit: Jeremy Bishop
Credit: Jeremy Bishop

Dolphins are perhaps our most visible oceanic residents, frequently spotted surfing the waves along the south coast and performing aerial acrobatics amongst the sea spray. Head down to the beach and watch the waves to catch a glimpse of local bottlenose dolphins — and look out for spinner dolphins, so called for the way they spin through the air!

Credit: Jeremy Bishop
Credit: Jeremy Bishop

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