A Whale’s Tail – Sri Lanka
Mirissa, Sri Lanka has it all. Lush tropical interior, a beach that puts the ‘a taste of paradise ’ in bounty bar’s old advert to shame, good food, a laid back low-key vibe and cheap whale watching trips. Having never seen a whale in its natural environment before, I was keen to go on a tour. We booked into an old house off the beach which had a great garden, nice rooms, good views, very friendly hosts and planned to check out boat prices the next day.
On the first night of our stay the worst storm in years hit the area. Thunderbolts crashed into the garden and short circuited the electricity, wind smashed debris against the buildings and a deluge of water poured down from the skies. Our bedroom roof leaked badly and soon there were streams of water running down the walls, out the door and along the balcony before cascading down the stairs to the ground. It was a regular Victoria Falls. Paddling around the room in the dark trying to rescue anything at floor level and place it on the beds I discovered they too were very wet. So unable to sleep due to thunderous noise, a fear of being struck by lightning and beds that were too damp to sleep on (we did try) we hunkered down on the balcony and watched the storm play itself out. The next day, tired and damp, we sloshed downstairs to find blackened trees, blasted bushes, flattened flowers and shrubs. A vacant guest room had been struck and a black line ran down the wall ending in a hole in the marble floor. We had been wise to stay undercover. As a consequence of being wet for hours I developed a severe head cold which was persistent and took days to recover from. Whale watching was put on hold and I spent time recuperating on the beach. Over a period of several days we struck up conversations with different people including a German guy who had sourced a reasonably priced, good quality whale watching trip. This trip was unique in that it guaranteed if no whales were spotted the first time they would take you out again for free. Never one to pass on a good deal, despite having blocked ears and still feeling a bit crap, I signed up.
Walking onto the ship, the captain asked me if I got seasick. Now, I’ve been on ferries in storms where most of the passengers were throwing up, sailed yachts and speed boats in bad weather and ridden a boat in such bad conditions I thought we were done for and have never been ill. So I replied that I was a good sailor in a rather superior manner. An hour out and one meal down, the captain who was a whale nut and loved his job produced sea charts, pictures and gave a very comprehensive talk on the whales we were likely to spot. The boat stopped and started to roll in the waves. I started to feel unwell and rapidly went downhill when the captain ,with a wide grin on his face, asked me if I wanted an omelette. It was payback time. I lay down at the back of the boat and was joined over the ensuing 4 hours by various passengers and a member of the crew who were beginning to feel the effects of a combination of roiling boat and egg based food. As they started to throw up (including the crew member) I started to feel a little less of a wimp.
The captain who was by now enthusiastically following a whale and her calf in an attempt to give us as much exposure time as possible, lost track of time. Under any other circumstance an extended trip would have been a plus but being dog sick I yearned for solid ground. Six hours after the journey began I was granted my wish. Staggering off the boat, I vowed not to be so cocky in future. The captain realising that I’d not seen any whales due to my inability to stand in the boat without throwing up offered to take me out the next day and try again. Blanching at the thought I assured him that I had seen a whale tail or two, declined the offer and headed for my bed.