Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Humbled by Nature

Last Sunday, I had one of the most outstanding experiences of my life.

The southernmost tip of Sri Lanka is the best place in the world to see blue and sperm whales. It’s remarkable that the world didn’t know about it till 2008. And since then, a sleepy fishing village called Mirissa becomes alive with travelers from distant lands during the whale watching season, which falls between October and April. Many species of Dolphins are also sighted in the area.

About 25 of us from different parts of the world boarded a small boat from Mirissa fishery harbor at 6: 30 am and turned into Captain Ahabs looking for Moby Dick. The Organizers (Mirissa Water Sports Crew) had told us that Lady Luck needs to be happy with us for the whale-sighting to happen. The believers amongst us would have started off on a prayer or two.

The whales are usually seen at 10 -12 nautical miles (about 6kms away) away from the coast of Mirissa, which is about 2 hours into the ocean.

A dull hour and a half passed without any action except that some of us started to get sea sick. The sharp sun and the Titanic type rocking of the boat were adding to their miseries.

Suddenly someone cried, ‘Look there….Dolphin’. And the entire boat sprung into action. All sorts of cameras came out. Life came back in the form of these sprightly, jumping, spinning, happy Dolphins all around us.

I had seen Dolphins in the sea earlier but that totally paled in front of this experience. It was as if hundreds of them had got together to put up a performance for us which they have been practicing for a while. It was as if they were telling us that they are equally happy to see us.

In the span of next 45 minutes we saw some 3 species of Dolphins. Spinner, Bottlenose and Risso’ s The last one is a rare sight and smiles the most.

Then, we moved on to find the world’s largest living species. By now, I was beginning to get sea sick. I had never been in the deep sea and or this long in all my life.

An impatient fellow started yelling, ‘Where is the Whale’? Another pessimist one said in a thick British accent, ‘We maay not see it, after all’.

And then, one of the crew shouted, ‘Whaaaaale’. What I saw next will stay with me for the rest of my life. I stood there, in that rocking boat, completely humbled by nature, yet again.

That Sunday morning, we saw four different blue whales. The fact that I got six good shots (3 of them are here) of them on my newly acquired SLR, is the icing on the cake. The whales and the dolphins were its first few shots. What a start!