The 'Princess of Lanka' is the largest vessel used for whale watching in Sri Lanka. It is operated by the navy from their base in Galle on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing at 7am. Foreigners are charged US$100 for a trip, which last 4 to 5 hours. Children aged 6 and older are charged US$50. Your driver will probably not recommend this trip because they do not get commission from the navy boats in the way that they do from some of the small operators in MIrissa etc.
As you would expect, you are in safe hands. None of the boats that we had considered in Mirissa had lifejackets suitable for our 1 year old. Once we were out at sea, we were relieved that we had not taken one of these smaller boats as the swell was pretty huge and young children would have struggled to hold on. The Mirissa boats do get closer to the whales but are more suitable for people who are happy to spend hours in the sun, have good sea legs and excellent balance.
There was a bar on board the navy boat, and they provided a light breakfast. There was no commentary though and any sightings of whales were done by fellow passengers. In my opinion, there were too many people on the upstairs, open deck. Whenever there were sightings of whales, there was a huge surge of tourists to that particular side of the boat. If you were not lucky enough to have been there already, you struggled to get a good view.
On the plus side though, there were loads of whales around. I lost count, but we must have seen 15 to 20 whales (mostly blue whales and a few sperm whales). On our return to Galle, we spotted a pod of Spinner Dolphins, but again, there was no commentary. You get a good view of Galle and the lighthouse as you enter and leave the naval base.
I would recommend this trip for tourists who are keen to see whales but are concerned about the safety standards of the boats that are operated from Mirissa; especially the very young and the elderly. It is also a better option for those who are prone to get travel sick, but there were still plenty of people who were sea sick on board. However, I think there are better tours for those who want some commentary and a more comprehensive whale watching experience.
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