This week Julie and I are taking you to the South side of Sri Lanka, looking for elephants and whales, sleeping in tree houses and sailing yachts, discovering secret beaches and more.
We are starting our trip in the lovely fishing town of Mirissa.
From Colombo airport you can easily get here by driver.
Alternatively, catch a tuk-tuk to Colombo train station. Take a train to Galle. From there continue by bus, eastward bound, to Mirissa. All in all, a few hours’ travel, with some gorgeous views of the Indian Ocean.
On a very sunny afternoon, as most afternoons are here on the Southern shores of Sri Lanka, we head out to the ‘Mirissa Fisheries Harbor’ and board the Pearl, a luxurious 4-cabin Catamaran.
Captain Anura and his crew welcome us. We are in luck, as only 2 of the 4 cabins are taken; so only 4 people instead of the maximum capacity of 8. With a yacht of this size, it basically feels like our private catamaran.
You are asked to take of your shoes on the ship. Once aboard, the refreshing welcome cocktail gets accompanied by a safety briefing. As there are some dangers out on the open sea. Captain Anura gives us a speed course. Did you know you should always face the stairs when descending one on a boat? That way, for example, you don’t go for an unwanted swim should you trip due to a sudden wave.
The crew shows us our lodgings in the hull of the boat.
The cabin has its own private bathroom, with toilet and shower. Luckily a fan is provided, as the hull gets very hot due to the burning sun. A nice plus; from the toilet you can look through an underwater porthole. With some luck we might spot a fish! Stepping through the bathroom we move into the bedroom part of the cabin. There’s quite a large bed, pristinely made. This looks like a good night’s rest. There are also some cabinets with locks on them.
Pro tip; due to the rocking of the boat, be sure to lock up all your things. That way you don’t come down finding them spread all over the bed. Learn from my fails.
After settling in we head to the top deck where Captain Anura is steering us West. There are some cushions beneath the huge sail where we take a rest in the shade. Suddenly the captain asks if I want to take the steering wheel?! He explains what all the equipment is for and the course we are following. I see ships nor rocks on the radar, so feel quite confident. With Captain Anura disappearing down below, the pirate in me starts to take over.
Land Ho! Back on deck, the captain points to our destination; Snake Island. Apparently named so as the local fishermen used to drop off all venomous snakes here. This because, being Buddhist, they could not kill them. I am not sure why we would want to visit an island filled with snakes, but what the hey, adventure awaits!
Once arrived, it turns out we are not going on land. Instead we drop anchor here for the night.
As chef Dimuthu prepares dinner, it is time for a swim. The crew brings out a SUP (Stand Up Paddle)-board and some snorkeling gear. With no waves (thanks to Snake Island for providing some shelter), we even get to swim in between the hulls of the catamaran, trying to peak into our bathroom’s porthole.
After a nourishing fish and veggie meal, we watch the sun go down whilst having a little Titanic-moment (excluding the sinking part). We soon move to the cabin, which is slightly bearable thanks to the cooling fan. With all the fun but exhausting travelling, swimming and pirating behind us, sleep finds us swiftly.
A metallic rattling noise suddenly wakes us up;
are we getting boarded by enemy pirates, is it all hands on deck?
No, just the raise anchor. The boat’s engine kicks in and starts snoring, the boat rocking us back to sleep for a bit, dreaming of the whales we hopefully will see today. Back on deck, we find a luxurious breakfast. A fresh tropical fruit platter, toast with butter and jam. Even bacon and eggs, not something you’d expect to get out at sea. An excellent pot of Ceylon tea, as well as coffee, and some fresh fruit juice, finishes off a perfect start of the day.
After an hour of sailing we start to notice other boats on the Ocean; fully packed commercial two deckers filled to the brim with tourists hoping to shoot some whales. Another pro tip: Spend a little bit more on a private charter yacht like this one. You don’t want to get stuck on one of those death traps.
Not much further, one of the crew yells out, the boat jibes and we go full throttle to the place the crewmember is enthusiastically pointing at. We peer out at sea, but see nothing special.. until suddenly a huge tail splashes up the water, and we get to see our very first blue whale.
The magnificent whale makes a dive, but we soon spot another. Making itself known by spouting air and water high up through its blowhole, and splashing its huge tail as it dives. Soon after there’s another one, and another one!
After we have our fill of these majestic beasts, the boat sets sail back to shore. Before going into the harbor, we lay anchor once more. Chef Dimuthu conjures a colorful batch of Sri Lankan curries.
Just after noon, the sun shining bright, we set foot on land again as people who can now forever brag about having seen the big blue whale.
For more info on Sail Lanka Charter, click here.