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Marine Mammals

The wonder of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage begins with its rich oceans and these waters are a haven for marine mammals.

These animals can be divided into Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises and Dugongs. Marine mammals breathe air, reproduce live young mammals who feed on their mother’s milk.

There are 28 species of marine mammals in Sri Lanka, including six species of great whales. The whales known as “Thalmaha” in Sinhalese are the leviathans of the deep and are among the largest animals on earth. Whales breathe air and hence come up to the surface to breathe, which provides a small window to observe these animals. The “waterfall” effect of a lifted tail fluke is the highlight at a whale sighting.

The largest of whales is the Blue Whale which is recorded to grow to lengths exceeding 90 feet. The “Blues” off Sri Lankan waters are slightly smaller with lengths up to 70-75 feet, and is speculated to be unique subspecies. As residents of Sri Lankan waters, these creatures are to be seen in Mirissa and Waligama during November to April.

Known as the “Elephants of the Sea”, Sperm Whales as a herd, float around the coasts of Sri Lanka during March - April. These creatures have the sharpest teeth and are said to be the best divers in the ocean reaching down 300-800m into the deep waters.

The Sri Lankan seas are also home to many species of dolphins and porpoises. The most numerous and interesting are the Spinner Dolphins which are found in super pods numbering a few thousand individuals. Found quite commonly across the waters of Sri Lanka, they are witnessed often in Kalpitiya.

Naturally seen around the Lankan coasts, the “Wolves of the Sea”- the Killer Whale or Orca is in-fact the largest species of Dolphins. Other species such as Risso Dolphin, False Killer Whales, Piliot Whales, Bottlenose Dolphin and Indo Pacific Hump Backed Dolphin are seen from time to time, but are rare visitors.

There is yet another mysterious marine mammal found off Sri Lankan waters, known as the Dugong. Dugongs inhabit Sri Lanka's Northwest coast, including Kalpitiya, the Bar Reef Sanctuary and the Puttlam Lagoon. Very rarely seen, these gentle mammals are under threat due to human hunting.

The whale and dolphin watching season is dependent on the pattern of the monsoonal rains. During the north-east monsoon, the best is off Kalpitiya and Mirissa between the months of November through to April. During the south-west monsoon from April through September, Trincomalee on the North East coast offers the best opportunities for whale and dolphin watching and many more.

The Blue Whale

Balaenoptera musculus

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