Tangent Time: (This post is not for the fainthearted – read at your own risk. Does involve vomit.)
In peak season, Mirissa is famous for its whale and dolphin watching tours. After spending a couple of days lazing about, we felt that we should probably organise an activity of some sort. One night after dinner, we were strolling along the beach back towards our accommodation when we saw a sign that was advertising cheap whale watching (2500 instead of 7000 rupee) for the next day. After a couple of questions to check the particulars and suss out why it was so cheap (apparently last minute seats to help fill the boat and not as many whales as usual), it was decided we would take a chance on it, plus it included breakfast (always gets me over the line). The organisers claimed that even though it was not whale season, they were still averaging 2 whale sightings a trip as well as many dolphins. They even guaranteed a second trip for free if we didn’t see one! What could we possibly have to lose? Apparently my dignity.
We had to meet the organisers at a certain spot the next morning at 6am to be tuk tuked to the mariner. As I dragged my holiday-mode self out of bed and got ready, the weather outside had me seriously second guessing our plans. The clouds outside were dark and angry looking as they unleashed their rainy wrath upon us. Rhys and I debated not going but he ended up convincing me that the weather would clear eventually like it had the other days usually turning on the sunshine by around 10am. We stomped our way through the mud to our meeting point where our guide was 10 minutes late arriving. I saw this as an ominous omen as we debated heading back home to crawl under the covers, when he came running up apologising. The rain slowed as we drove to the mariner and located our boat. Our guide pulled us aside just before we got out of the tuk tuk and whispered to us, asking that we not mention the cheaper price we had paid to the other participants because apparently they had paid full price.
As we boarded, I noticed that the 100 seats were occupied mostly by Asian tourists readying their cameras as they put their life jackets over their heads and clipped in. We headed out of the calm mariner and into the rough and rolling seas. The clouds were still looming over head as the wind whipped around and the ocean rocked the boat. After almost an hour of heading directly out to sea followed by a couple of other whale watching boats, the non-seafaring folk (myself included) began to revolt against the rolling motion and the seasickness began.
I am not usually a queasy person, but this trip got me too. It started towards the front as a couple of kids and their dad dry wretched, trying to throw up their non -xistent breakfast. The tour operators handed out black plastic bags as quickly as they could to anyone who looked mildly ill. The sounds of more people chucking their guts up started to take effect on me and eventually I succumbed. I tried standing up, I tried sitting down, I tried looking out to the horizon that was rolling just as much as our boat was. It was windy, raining on and off and the noise of plastic bags flapping and heaving stomachs filled the air. It had been almost two hours of boating without even seeing a single fin or tail. Plus, many of the passengers were staring at the ground trying not to think about how terrible they felt.
At this point, I almost didn’t care if I never saw a whale ever again as passengers all around us were sick and Rhys tried to help me, looking on with pity as I sat there spitting bile repeatedly into my plastic bag. Finally, a blue whale was spotted as the tourists who were still able to look up pulled out their cameras trying to capture a glimpse. The captain’s helpers rushed to the side of the boat and pointed furiously at the spot where the whale had just breached (very slightly) out of the water. Now in all honesty, yes, I did most definitely see a whale a couple of times. It was a one second glance of a hump, then a tail and then that was it. I wasn’t well enough to even think about getting my camera out nor did I think the scene before me was really picture worthy as I clutched my bag of spew. There were a few oohs and aaahs as the whale swam along breaking the water every 10 minutes or so as we tried to keep up. After 30 minutes of following the whale, our tour guides started asking if anyone hadn’t seen the whale, ensuring that no one asked for their money back. Even if I hadn’t seen the whale, you could not have paid me enough to do the trip a second time.
After it had been agreed, that yes indeed EVERYONE had seen a whale, the boat turned around and headed back to land as the excitement of the whale sighting started to wear off and everyone realised that we had another 2 hours of rocking boat time before we hit dry land. The crew started to hand out the breakfast boxes to those with iron stomachs who had been able to resist the motion sickness paired with the retching sounds that continued around them. I took my box but gave it to Rhys who happily chowed down on the extra tuna sandwich, banana and juice popper. I couldn’t even look at the sandwich without wanting to throw up a little more. Finally, the boat docked and I could not get off fast enough. Our tuk tuk driver was waiting to take us back to our accommodation but it was still hours before I could even think about eating.
The boat and staff were actually excellent, and the experience itself is one I won’t forget, but not because of the whales.