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Sunday, 16 February 2014

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Whale-watchers flock to Mirissa

Among the many tourist attractions in our country, whale-watching has become increasingly popular during a short time span. Now ranked as the best destination in the world to see Blue Whales, the Mirissa whale watching business has grown into a popular tourist attraction.

Over 30 registered boats operate in Mirissa. Foreign tourists are very enthusiastic to venture into the sea to have a close look at these giant marine mammals, the largest living creature in the world.

Boat operators continue to offer foreigners the unique experience of sighting a Blue Whale daily.

Blue Whales are over 30 metres long and weigh around 200 tons. Their tongues weigh as much as an elephant. There are less than 25,000 Blue Whales left in the world oceans. You should be extremely lucky to see one.

According to statistics of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, tourist arrivals in Mirissa increased in January.

The Ministry of Defence and Urban Development and Wildlife Conservation Department have authorised the Sri Lanka Coast Guard to regulate whale-watching cruises from Mirissa.

According to the records maintained by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, 18,051 (locals - 1,267, foreigners - 16,784) tourists enjoyed whale watching in Mirissa sea area from September to December 2013.

In January, 13,630 people engaged in whale-watching. Of this, 12,698 were foreign tourists and 932 were locals. As per the records held by the Coast Guard, tourists from 93 countries visited Mirissa for whale watching during January.

There were 950 whale watchers from China, 778 from France, Germany 1,271, India 216, Russia - 31,520, Sweden - 837 and Britain 1,263.

With the Sri Lanka Coast Guard monitoring whale watching activities from September 2013, primary consideration has been given to the safety aspects of tourists on board the vessels.

In addition, the Coast Guard has deployed two vessels to monitor activities at sea and to assist boat operators in an emergency.

The Coast Guard has conducted a number of programs to educate boat operators on aspects of safety and in formulating a self-regulated code of conduct to make the whale watching industry a sustainable one.

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