Get your fill of whales and good food on board a yacht
The smell of freshly caught fish, and the sight of fishing boats anchored close together, meets the eye, as you make your way into the Mirissa fisheries harbour. November to April being the peak season for whale and dolphin watching, the Matara district is famous during this time of the year, with sightings occurring off the coasts of Mirissa and Weligama.
Sri Lanka is known as one of the latest hubs for the Blue whale, the largest mammal on the planet. Interestingly some of the Blue whale population remain in the same area throughout the year, whereas most whales in other parts of the world travel thousands of kilometres, each year.
The peak times in the island are where the other migrant whales also come in.
Aside from the Blue whale, whale watchers can look forward to sightings of Orcas, Sperm Whales, Pilot whales, whale sharks and dolphins.
We were in Mirissa for a spot of whale watching aboard â€˜Jadeâ€™, a 52- feet long catamaran, belonging to â€˜Sail Lanka Charterâ€™. Anchored amidst a group of other yachts with her sail still down, she was a pretty sight.
It was afternoon when the anchor was lifted and we set sail. Captain Anru Prasanna (35) and his crew worked hard to hoist the sail, as the wind from the south kicked in, driving the yacht steadily out to the open sea.
As evening fell, we spotted â€˜Snake Islandâ€™, located about half a kilometre off the Weligama coast and the yacht dropped anchor.
The crew aboard â€˜Jadeâ€™were friendly, courteous and overall well versed in sailing and the ways of the sea. We were introduced to Sanjeewa (19) the life guard, Chamod (22), a crew member and life guard and 22-year-old Dimuthu Madusanka, the head chef.
Sanjeewa soon unloaded a canoe and brought out the snorkeling gear. His explanation of the doâ€™s and donâ€™ts of rowing proved quite useful, to those who struggled to steer the canoe in one direction.
The water around was approximately six metres in depth, perfect for swimming, beneath the setting sun.
Dinner was served on deck awhile later under the beautiful moonlit sky. Chef Dimuthu had outdone himself with a frittata chicken, bathed with mozzarella cheese, garlic, onions, egg, seasoned with a few coriander leaves, salt and pepper.
Dessert was a scrumptious chocolate cake, topped with chocolate syrup and a cherry.
There was fried rice too for those guests, who preferred a more Sri Lankan styled meal. Beer, white and red wines were also on offer.
There are four cabins, each can accomodate two guests (the yacht itself can hold ten guests) equipped with comfortable double beds.
The rumbling of the engines awoke us at 6.30 a.m. The crew was already up and about headed by Captain Anura Shantha (30), who had traded shifts with Captain Anru.
Two hours later, a spurt of water shot up, as Captain Anura steered the yacht away from a huge greenish form that rose out of the water. A beautiful Blue whale dove under, giving us a quick glimpse of its body and tail.
We sighted five Blue whales that morning, much to the delight of the photographers on board.
Two hours later â€˜Jadeâ€™ anchored off an isolated spot, along the Weligama coast and we again plunged in for a spot of snorkeling in the shallow waters.
Around noon, the crew directed us back to the yacht, where we were greeted by a delicious spread of rice, dhal, tempered potato and fish curry. A separate dish of â€˜wasabi tunaâ€™ was also cooked for those who didnâ€™t want rice. Dessert included a fruit cocktail, bananas, grapes and pomegranate, coated in yoghurt and cream.
Over lunch, Captain Anura explained how Sail Lanka Charter was the product of a Trust aimed at regenerating the south after the tsunami in 2004.
Pierre Pringiers, Chairman of Sail Lanka Charter and his tyre business partner Tissa Jinasena, set up the Solideal Loadstar Rehabilitation Trust, to rebuild Mirissaâ€™s fishing communities hit by the disaster. At the time the Trust rebuilt 750 houses, 30 fishing boats and restored 250 boat engines, benefitting almost 15,000 people. Two years later, it was converted into the â€˜Building a Future Foundationâ€™ aimed at creating long-term opportunities for the fishing community in the south by training young people in skills that will help them earn a living.
The Foundation set up to repair the tsunami-damaged boats doubled as a training centre. Soon the youth in the south were learning all the skills related to boat building. Young people were also trained on the finer points of boating and sailing.Â Captain Anura, explains that â€˜Jadeâ€™ just like the other yachts owned by Sail Lanka charter was built by Sri Lankans. He adds that he himself just like Captain Anru, are products of the programme.
|TitbitsCheck in is at 3.30 p.m, while check out the day after is at 1.30 p.m. The cruise in the south takes off from Mirissa to Weligama on day one and from Weligama bay to Mirissa beach on day two. It is priced at 350 USD for one cabin (two people) on a full board basis.A two night cruise is priced at 700 US$ per couple, while a six night cruise, along the East coast is 2200 US$. |
For more information visit:http://sail-lanka-charter. com/