Kalpitiya: April is showtime for Sperm Whales and Spinner Dolphins




Kalpitiya is the hot spot for dolphins right now. Here Spinner Dolphins are encountered on almost a daily basis often in pods of a thousand or more. Spinners are very social and are often seen leaping and doing full body spins out of the water in spectacular aerial displays. The dolphins are seen predominantly in-shore of the reef in shallow waters.

When you venture out further West approximately seven nautical miles from the land and travel along on a North-South axis for a chance to encounter sperm whales. The continental shelf is the point at which there is a steep increase in the ocean depth from around 100 metres to over a 1000 metres in a very short distance.

Sperm Whales can be seen hunting around depths of about 400 metres along the continental shelf, which in Kalpitiya is about seven nautical miles from the land and runs parallel to the peninsula. Sperm Whales are highly social and can often be seen in maternal pods in large numbers which may contain as many as 50 – 60 individuals.

More data is needed from more frequent sailings to get a better idea of establishing Kalpitiya whale-watching potential as until now boat operators seemed keen to promote the area predominantly for dolphin watching which was done inshore of the reef.  Looking into 2012-13 the situation is expected to change in the upcoming season after the buzz created from  sighting a large pod of about 50 – 60 individuals in late April 2012 for over a week.

Discover-Kalpitiya WildFile

Whale : Blue Whale, Bryde’s Whale, Orca, Short-finned Pilot Whale,
Dolphin: Risso’s Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and Striped Dolphin are some of the other cetacean species which maybe encountered.

For birders, Kalpitiya is also the best spot in the country for watching vagrant pelagic birds particularly during the onset of the South-west monsoon in April. Species such as Lesser Noddy, Brown Noddy, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Brown Booby, Pomarine Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Sooty Tern and Bridled Tern are some of the pelagics which have been recorded in the area over the past few seasons.


December – April: Very little however is known about sperm whale behaviour around Sri Lankan waters and at this stage it appears that they migrate through Sri Lankan waters from around December to April.

November – mid-to-late April : The seas at Kalpitiya are suitable for sailing only once the South-west monsoon subsides by around November and the conditions usually remain calm till around mid-late April.

March – April : Dolphins can be encountered on over 95 percent of excursions while Sperm Whales at this stage appear to be seen on 1 in 5 sailings as a conservative estimate with the frequency of sightings usually increasing in March – April.

Riaz Cader was out in Kalpitiya on the 16th – 17th April with Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Ashan Seneviratne from Little Adventures on a research expedition along with the hoteliers in Kalpitiya to promote whale watching. Accommodation was kindly provided by Iqbal Hassan at Baywatch Eco Resort in Dutch Bay. 


Riaz Cader is Assistant Manager – Nature & Community Projects at Jetwing Hotels and on and off-the-job continues to visit Sri Lanka’s wild places to pursue his passion of wildlife photography. Riaz is a self-trained photographer and uses a Canon EOS 7D body predominantly with a Canon 100-400mmL series lens for wildlife images along with a Canon 24-105mm L series lens and Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lenses for landscapes and portraits.

Riaz Cader can be found on facebook and  flickr 


  1. Awesome clicks !!!

    Yet to visit Kalpitiya for whale watching (though passed the location on many occasions) and after seen these pics and reading the article, shall put it down in the Must Do List !!!

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