Sri Lanka - Wrecks, Reefs and Whales

March 23, 2020

 

Sri Lanka 2020 - Wrecks, Reefs and Whales

 

This years trip to Sri Lanka was a huge success. In a bit over a week we went diving on fabulous wrecks, snorkeled and scuba dived on pristine reefs and swam with Blue, Sperm and Pilot Whales. And all that literally on the last few days before the COVID-19 virus closed all wildlife activities in Sri Lanka.

 

Check out the trip video below

 

 

Wrecks of Colombo

For the first section of the trip we went scuba diving on the wrecks of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. As a historic harbor it has seen a lot of boat tragedies over the last few centuries providing divers with a variety of wrecks dating all the way back to the early 1900s.

 

During the season the water is surprisingly clear and the wrecks are a magnet for massive schools of fish. Both for wrecks fans and reef enthusiasts there is a lot of excitement to be found on these dives.

 

The SS Perseus was sunk during the WW1 by a German raider. 

 

 The Lotus Barge is a smaller ship and is almost entirely engulfed by reef fish.

 

This cargo ship only sunk recently  and still has air-conditioners, computers and a kitchen to be visited. It was loaded with large metal tubes and contruction material making for funny photo opportunities.

 

The rich marine life also includes big snappers, moray eels and sea snakes.

 The funkiest wreck is the Thermophylae Sierra, one of the more recent wrecks.

It sunk after years of negligence and now is a great above-and-below wreck to dive and freedive. It is slowly being taken apart by the currents but it still holds many exiting swim throughs and rooms to explore.

 

 

Whale Swimming

We then headed across the country to start swimming with whales. Sri Lanka has almost 30 species of whales and dolphins and Insider Divers found just the right place to get great interactions with these amazing creatures.

 

Of course our first priority was swimming with Blue Whales but in this ocean we would find all kinds of other whales too.

 

All photo taken by Simon Lorenz and Matt Nethaway with permit from the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka.

 

Sperm Whales

Our first two days we actually didn't see the Blues. But my personal dream of seeing Sperm Whales came true after only a few hours on the ocean.

For several hours we got in the water with the biggest toothed predators on the planet. Truly humbling to be in the water with these giants.

In this photo you can see Melissa getting close to the fluke of a big male - and this was her first day of snorkeling in her life! (POIDH)

 

 

Dolphins & Pilot Whales

The Indian Ocean around Sri Lanka has lots of dolphins. Very often we could see spinner dolphins around our boats, as well as bottlenose dolphins. They are generally a bit shy around humans here, but we got them to surf the bow a couple of times.

But then we got a whole day of swimming with Pilot Whales. Depending on perspective you could call Pilot Whales small whales or giant dolphins. The males can reach up to 1 ton of weight, so they are an impressive sight under water. They travel in huge pods making it relatively easy to get in the water with them.

 

Pigeon Island - Reefs

When the action is low you can make a snorkeling stop at the protected Pigeon Island. This little sandy beached island is surrounded by very rich corals and a healthy population of sea turtles and black tip reef sharks.

 

Blue Whales

But of course the main trophy of this trip was Blue Whales - the largest animal that ever roamed the planet. A Blue Whale can reach up to 30m in length and has a mouth that is large enough to fit an African Elephant.

Blue Whales usually migrate towards the poles to find their main food - tiny crustaceans called krill that form massive red shoals. And on several days we got lucky. We saw several whales of different sizes including a mother and a calf.

 

But our best interaction was this over 20m long female that did not seem to be bothered by our presence and gave us the opportunity of a close swim several times.

Apparently the deeper waters around the Sri Lankan coast line have so much krill that the Blue Whales here do not migrate. As long as you know where to find them in the season there is a great chance to be able to swim with them - as long as you have a permit.

 The last day of the trip got cut short by the advancing COVID-19 virus. Although there were barely any infections in the country the Wildlife Department chose to close all wildlife activities. Returning to our home countries we could not help but feel blessed that we managed to squeeze this trip in before the virus closed up all the air traffic and managed to see the wrecks, reefs and whales of Sri Lanka.

 

Join us in 2021 on our next expedition to Sri Lanka.

 

 

 

 

 

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