11 Feb Whales in Sri Lanka
The biodiversity of Sri Lanka is not restricted to the landmass alone. Recently Sri Lankan shores have become famous for its marine giant mammals, Whales, and dolphins. These giant creatures are living within the borders of the International Whaling Commission’s Protected Zone in the waters of the Indian Ocean. Our little island has always been one of the famous destinations for all year round recreational activities. Over a hundred rivers and ecosystems contribute to the ocean around Sri Lanka. During the monsoon season with its proximity to the continental shelf creates the perfect condition to support the food chain in the warm tropical water systems of Sri Lanka.
Whales are creatures of the open ocean, they feed, mate, give birth, suckle and raise their young at sea. So extreme is their adaptation to life underwater that they are unable to survive on land. Whales range in size from the 2.6 meters and 135 kilograms to the 29.9 meters and 190 metric tons blue whale, which is the largest creature that has ever lived. Whales are warm-blooded, marine mammals which are of the order Cetacea. They breathe air, give birth to live young and found in all the oceans of the world. Whales have evolved from land-living mammals. As such whales must breathe air regularly, although they can remain submerged underwater for long periods of time. Whales are divided into two suborders, the Odontoceti (toothed whales) and Mysticeti (baleen whales). Mysticeti is toothless mammals while instead of teeth, they have a rigid brush like whalebone plate material which is called ‘baleen’ which hangs from their upper jaw area.
- Whales have torpedo-shaped bodies with non-flexible necks, limbs modified into flippers, non-existent external ear flaps, a large tail fin, and flatheads. Whale skulls have small eye orbits, long snouts and eyes placed on the sides of its head.
- Whales have two flippers on the front and a tail fin. These flippers contain four digits. Although whales do not possess fully developed hind limbs, some, such as the sperm whale and bowhead whale, possess discrete rudimentary appendages, which may contain feet and digits. Whales are fast swimmers in comparison to seals.
- The whale ear has specific adaptations to the marine environment. Not like in humans, in whales and other marine mammals, there is no great difference between the outer and inner environments. Instead of sound passing through the outer ear to the middle ear, whales receive sound through the throat, from which it passes through a low impedance fat-filled cavity to the inner ear.
- The whale eye is relatively small for its size, yet they do retain a good degree of eyesight. As well as this, the eyes of a whale are placed on the sides of its head, so their vision consists of two fields, rather than a binocular view like humans have.
- Whales are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme, and grieve. Larger whales are also thought, to some degree, to engage in play.
- Whales are fully aquatic creatures, which means that birth and courtship behaviors are very different from terrestrial and semi-aquatic creatures. Since they are unable to go onto land to calve, they deliver the baby with the fetus positioned for tail-first delivery. This prevents the baby from drowning either upon or during delivery. To feed the new-born, whales, being aquatic, must squirt the milk into the mouth of the calf.
- Unlike most animals, whales are conscious breathers. All mammals sleep, but whales cannot afford to become unconscious for long because they may drown.
Whale watching in Sri Lanka has always been a very exciting activity. The thrill that you get when you witness these beautiful giant creatures is extraordinary. These mammoth sea creatures are indeed a spectacular sight to witness while there are a number of tour packages that we have in store for the adventure loving visitors. Some of the best Whale watching destinations in Sri Lanka are Kalpitiya, Mirissa, Trincomalee, and Hikkaduwa. Among them, Mirissa is Sri Lanka’s top whale watching hotspot, perfect to witness breathtaking views of those giant creatures. There are 80 species of whales that have been identified in all oceans, while 26 of them have been recorded up to date in and around the seas of Sri Lanka. Getting to see the largest animal on earth up close and personal is an awesome, once in a lifetime opportunity.