Whale watching

Whale watching in Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is one of Sri Lanka’s top whale watching hotspots, perfect for breathtaking views of the enigmatic creatures. Getting to see the largest animal on earth up close and personal, is a once in a lifetime, awe-inspiring opportunity. Seeing whales in their natural habitat are something only a few of us can dream of, and Kalpitiya affords you this opportunity to view whales just a short distance from the island’s shore. Kalpitiya is popular for its presence of a variety of whales, including Sperm Whales and Blue Whales, and a visit here is imperative as it is a world class attraction of marine life.


How did Kalpitiya become famous for whale watching?

In the 1980s, research on Sperm Whales was initially done in the seas of Sri Lanka off the East Coast. During the civil war, research was restricted, and once again resumed at the turn of the century. In 2003, it was discovered that the Indian Ocean waters surrounding Sri Lanka was home to the highest density of Sperm Whales in the world, and was also an ideal habitat for the Blue Whale, in addition to other types of whales and dolphins. Sri Lanka is situated within the International Whaling Commission’s protected zone in the Indian Ocean.


Although the seas of Kalpitiya Peninsula are currently recognized as Sri Lanka’s top spot for watching dolphins around the reef close to the shore line, it was only a few years ago that enthusiasts ventured further off-shore of the reef and discovered that it was teeming with whales too. Following this discovery, hoteliers and boatman are now targeting whale watching in their activities with excursions further off-shore becoming more common, allowing incredible sightings of these magnificent creatures.


Kalpitiya is one of the best places in Asia to watch Sperm Whales. It has cemented its place as one of the top three whale watching spots in Sri Lanka, in addition to Mirissa in the south and Trincomalee in the east. These spots are key whale watching sites because of the proximity of the continental shelf, logistics and the wide diversity of marine mammal species.


What types of whales can I see in Kalpitiya?

Boat trips regularly take off Kalpitiya Peninsula to catch sights of a variety of whales. The most common whales to be found here are Sperm Whales, whilst the Blue Whale, Minke, Melon-Headed and Dwarf Sperm whales can also be spotted surfacing from time to time. Even Orcas have been sighted just outside Kandakuliya waters!


Sperm Whales: The most common whale spotted in Kalpitiya, the Sperm Whale is the largest toothed whale in the world, and the second largest of the whale species in general. They are often seen travelling in large groups, but this is an unusual occurrence for onlookers at Kalpitiya. The average size of mature male Sperm Whales is 16 meters, but some may reach over 20 meters, and its head makes up one-third of its length.


Blue Whales: Look out for Blue Whales – the largest animal in the world, and the heaviest too – on your whale watching expedition in Kalpitiya. Seeing these long, slender marvels, that are known to be up to 30 meters in length, swimming through the water is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that will be remembered for years to come.


Minke whales: Minke whales, are not as large as the Sperm and Blue whales, but are just as exciting to see in Kalpitiya. They range from 7 – 10 meters in length and are black/grey/purple in color. They breathe three to five times at short intervals before deep diving for longer intervals.


Melon-Headed whale: Also known as the many-toothed blackfish and electra dolphin, the melon-headed whale is commonly found in tropical waters. Its body is shaped like a torpedo, with a head rounded similar to a melon, hence its name. This whale can grow up to 3 meters in length and is a fast swimmer.


Dwarf Sperm: This is the smallest of the whale species and can occasionally be seen at Kalpitiya. It can grow up to 2.7 meters in length, and makes slow, deliberate movements. It has a mainly bluish grey body with a large dorsal fin.


Where are the whales located in Kalpitiya?

The best place to set off on a whale watching tour is from Alankuda Beach in Kalpitiya. Whales are usually spotted beyond the reef, which lies around 6 km from the coast, parallel to the peninsula. As the edge of the continental shelf comes in close to the peninsula, whales and other marine mammals can safely migrate in deep water whilst having access to nutrients close to shore. This means that whale watching enthusiasts do not have to travel far out in the open seas to see the spellbinding creatures, making Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka one of the best whale watching destinations in the region.


When is the peak season for whale watching in Kalpitiya?

The best time to spot whales in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka is between November and April, when the seas are relatively calm, after the south-west monsoon has spent its energy. In particular, the peak movement of whales is between November and December and again between March and April, during which whale watching sightings are common. During this time, the ‘blows’ or ‘spouts’ of the whales can be seen at a greater distance than when the seas are choppy. Early morning excursions are the best before the sea becomes too choppy. During ideal conditions, spotting up to 50 sperm whales in a group is possible. In the off-season (during the south-west monsoon), the seas are too rough to go out in. During some years, the south-west monsoon comes early, and the whale watching window closes by mid April.


How can I go about whale watching in Kalpitiya?

Boat trips take off daily from the resort beach every morning during the peak season, weather and sea conditions permitting, and return in the afternoon. Guests can leave the hotel around 6.30 am after an early breakfast. Whale sightings are further out off shore, and will therefore take longer than dolphin watching. However, dolphins can be spotted on the way. We arrange tours that are carried out by providers that have licensed boats with safety equipment and life jackets approved by the Department of Wildlife. Tours are conducted by certified English speaking guides; they are familiar with the best spots for whale sightings and will conduct informative briefs on safety, whales and environmental preservation of the marine mammals. Rates include charges for boat with experienced guides, purified water and taxes.


What are the best practices during whale watching in Kalpitiya?

It is important not to disturb the whales in their natural habitat. Do not force the guide to take the boat too close to the sea mammals, and make a direct bearing to the whales. Standard protocols state that maintaining a 100 meter distance is needed when observing whales. It is important that the animals are comfortable with the boat. It is also important not to feed any animals that come towards your boat, and not to litter the ocean with plastic bags or any other items. Be sure to obey all safety rules given by the crew when going out into the ocean and wear life jackets at all times. Our tours are governed by the rules and regulations set by the Department of Wildlife.


What should I bring during whale watching in Kalpitiya?

If you are bringing along a camera or electronic devices on board, please bring water resistant bags to protect them. Wear plenty of sunscreen, a cap or shades for your boat ride, to protect yourself from the sun. Also bring along personal effects depending on weather conditions. If you are susceptible to seasickness, then it is wise to take something prior to the trip to prevent motion sickness.


What makes Kalpitiya so special for whale watching in Sri Lanka?

  • Once in a lifetime opportunity to spot the largest mammals in the world in their natural habitat
  • See several mammal species – Sperm Whales, Blue Whales, other whales and dolphins on your tour
  • Affordable whale watching for both locals and foreigners
  • The area is still developing and is not packed with tourists, affording privacy and tranquility
  • Interactive English speaking guides to make your whale watching expedition complete with information and facts
  • Close proximity of whales to shore, therefore shorter boat trips
  • Tours are governed by the rules and regulations set by the Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka
  • Lifejackets provided and safety rules are all followed
  • Plenty to do and see apart from whale watching such as kitesurfing and snorkeling
  • Beautiful scenic area with gorgeous views and relaxing accommodation