Dolphin watching in Kalpitiya was more like ‘almost’ swimming with them! Almost. After countless times of whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa, I expected the same experience in Kalpitiya as well- big ass boat with nauseous humans wrecking their throats and my ear drums in the process, wrapped sandwiches boiling under the island’s sun that also helps boil melanin-less people as they sunbathe on the deck, and about an hour of crashing through waves until you eventually spot a glimmer of a whale’s tale or a sheath of his velvety skin instead and then you’re headed back to the harbour – if you’re lucky you’ll see a pod of dolphins swimming your way before they quickly disperse below the diamond-encrusted surface.
But no, dolphin watching in Kalpitiya was far different from this.
Kalpitiya is located on the northwest coast of Sri Lanka and is famed for two things – kite surfing and dolphin watching. The area experiences constant strong winds up to 30knots, however from May – September they are at the best, which also is the best season for kitesurfing. Winds tend to churn up to 20 knots during the off peak season from December to March and are not exactly ideal for kite surfing – but it is the perfect time to see dolphins! Kalpitiya, unfortunately (or fortunately), is not as developed or commercialized by mainstream tourism. There’s more space to stretch your legs but you also need to drive through rugged roads to get to your hotel by the beach or lagoon. When you’re here, you’ll see tons of wind turbines dotted along the coast punctuated by coconut trees!
Dolphin Beach Hotel
Dolphin Beach Hotel in Kalpitiya, is a gorgeous boutique hotel with tented beach lodges, named after its famous neighbours; Spinner, Bottlenose, Risso’, Killer Whale – Yep, also a type of dolphin (look it up!). Each glamping-style tent opens to a white lawn of beach sand and swaying coconut trees that dances seductively leading you towards the warm ocean waters.
The interiors are perfectly designed – the mustard tent canvas with red prints looked slightly of Indian-style, an open bathroom with an indoor and outdoor shower, the latter surrounded by dried palms for privacy ofcourse, and ample lounging areas both inside the tent and outside. One of my favourite bits about the hotel, were the cosy corners to relax, read a book, watch the waves kiss the shore or be mesmerized by the giant wind turbine and its gigantic blades whooshing above your head whilst having conversations on what would happen if the blades falls off.
Let’s get back to the actual experience of dolphin watching in Kalpitiya! Due to the pandemic, there was a very low occupancy at the hotel so the chances of us having the boat to ourselves was highly likely.
We set sail early morning as per the norm of sea safaris. If you weren’t aware, it’s because the ocean gets choppier and wild before noon, making it harder to spot these velvety playful creatures. Less than 20 minutes into our ride and not far off from the coast, it happened. Pods of dolphins surrounded us and for a moment it felt like a well-planned assassination – as if the animals had finally decided to take revenge on the humans – luckily, I watched Zoo on Netflix much later.
Tip – Once you’re at sea, crawl like a slug towards the bow and lie face down for the most heartening experience with dolphins. Be careful not to fall over or drop your phone as you record these beauties a few inches away from you!
Spinner Dolphins performed Olympic-worthy acrobatics in the air while Spotted and Striped Dolphin swam alongside looping in and out. It was almost as if they were trying to keep up or outperform the manmade vessel. Within 1 hour we ventured further into the depths of the mysterious ocean, following the currents and the pods as they skipped, twirled and buzzed through the waters. About 2 hours later, I was exhausted – the sun beating down on my back that resembled a crisp strip of bacon. We bid our farewells to the dolphins and headed back to the hotel to fuel up on coffee and breakfast.
Back at the Hotel for some R&R
Now that I’ve raved about that incredible experience – which I would highly recommend – let me rave about the hotel. Sri Lankan breakfast is to die for, no matter which part of the island you stay in – you can never go wrong with local cuisine. We feasted on kiribath and string hoppers and their accompaniments and spent the rest of the day cosied up in various lounge areas of the hotel; the cabanas, the beach swings, and finally the room to cool our pruned-bodies.
If you’re looking for a glammed up, resort experience in Kalpitiya; Dolphin Beach surely has it’s charm. The season for dolphin watching in Kalpitiya is from Mid-October to early May. We visited in April and the waters were teeming with them! If only we saw a few of them on our dive the previous day – maybe next time!