Watching Blue Whales in Sri Lanka by Mark Clayden

Mark Clayden travelled on our 'Sri Lanka - Blue Whales & Leopards' holiday and submitted this entry to our writing competition.

Blue Whale by Mark Clayden

As a seven year old boy I remember looking up in awe at the lifesize replica of a Blue Whale suspended from the ceiling of the natural History Museum in London. I will always remember how it dwarfed all of the people that stood beneath it.  A slew of questions poured out of my mouth: ‘Where does it live, does it sleep, what does it eat, how does it breath, is is really the biggest?’

Fast forward to today, my third day of Blue Whale watching off the south coast of Sri Lanka. The boat engine has been cut. I lick the salt from my lips; the sky and sea mix to make an endless crisp blue horizon that stretches for miles. I grasp onto the hand rail, the only sound are the waves lapping against the boat; I steady my footing. I look all around me, waiting.

The tranquility is broken by the sound of one the boat crew shouting ‘coming up!’ I follow the direction his hand is pointing and see the arch of a Blue Whale just as it jets water over thirty feet high into the air from its blowhole. The noise is like an enormous sigh, both calming and comforting. Two more shouts of ‘coming up!’ so I swivel my head left and right in quick succession and quickly resign myself to the fact that I don’t know where to look. Now an orchestra of blows surrounds the boat.

For a split second I’m back in the museum, facts and figures running through my mind: ‘It’s heart is the size of a small car, it eats krill, an adult human can crawl through its arteries ...’; I turn around as I hear the shout of, ‘It’s coming towards us!’ My heart skips a beat as I reassure myself that it’s not going to capsize the boat. I gasp in disbelief at what is happening and I am transfixed as one of the whales swims directly towards the boat, turning on its side to look up as it passes directly under me. I can only describe it as an unmeasurable, huge blue and white cloud drifting effortlessly with incredible grace underneath me.

And it is then that I feel so incredibly small as my brain registers that I am just mere feet away from a one hundred foot-long whale, the largest creature on the planet. It is overwhelming, breathtaking, beautiful and graceful. I rush around the other side of the boat to the cry of ‘tail up!’ as the creature raises its huge fluke and dives. It is a moment I will dream about and relive everyday.

Read more about our 'Sri Lanka - Blue Whales & Leopards' holiday.