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[This article in a shorter edition was first published in the Sunday Times Plus on Sunday 7th March 2010. Seehttp://www.sundaytimes.lk/100307/Plus/plus_13.html ]
Unveiling the Kalpitiya Peninsula as Sri Lanka’s third Whale Watching Hotspot

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne offers evidence to unveil Kalpitiya as the last of three whale watching hot spots in Sri Lanka. This is the story of one man’s quest to verify a theory by a British marine scientist.

Key Facts
* This article offers the first credible case as to why Kalpitiya can be one of three whale watching hot spot is Sri Lanka. The island has three potential whale watching locations. This where the edge of the continental shelf which plunges to a depth of a kilometer or more comes in very close to the shore and infrastructure is available. These are Trincomalee, Dondra and Kalpitiya Peninsula.

* The depth data for Kalpitiya only became available after the ocean floor was mapped in this area in October 2009 for oil exploration. The mapping of the entire island, showing Sri Lanka had just three potential whale watching hot spots were not shown on a map until January 2010.

* No one had made a serious effort to evaluate Kalpitiya’s potential for whale watching by traveling off shore of the reef until February 2010 when Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne succeeded in testing a verbal hypothesis made in March 2009 by Dr Charles Anderson about the proximity of the edge of the continental shelf and Kalpitiya’s whale watching potential.

* Until February 2010, the dolphin watching boats would spend several hours, within a 6-8 km band parallel to the Kalpitiya Peninsula which lies on a North-South axis. They did not go beyond the reef to the deep water where the edge of the shelf plunged deep. The dolphin watching boats only occasionally chanced across a stray whale which had wandered in-shore of this reef.
As I walked to the beach an Indian Nightjar churred. I was sensing the world through my ears. I was in a world of darkness, like the one inhabited by the Sperm Whales. In their world, in the murky depths where no light penetrates, they will ‘see’ with sound, using echo-location. Starlight filtered softly to be swallowed by the sea. Waves gently lapped the shoreline in front of the boat house at the Alankuda Beach Resort. The silent murmur of the sea was abruptly broken by the scream of a powerful out-board engine as we thundered out, hurtling across the reef at 30kmph to where the continental shelf plunged away into a deep abyss. I was heading in the darkness before day break, in search of the creatures of the darkness of the deep. I had instructed the boatman Susantha to head West, in search of whales and answers to another theory put forward by Dr Charles Anderson.

An orange fireball lurked below the Eastern horizon, still waiting to be uncovered by the Earth’s rotation. I was on my way for one more of my dedicated whale watching trips in Kalpitiya. Amazing as it may seem, it seems that this was the first serious, dedicated effort to look for whales off Kalpitiya and to ascertain whether whale watching could work as an eco-tourism product. Its not that others had not seen whales before. But almost all of them had been chance encounters of people watching dolphins in-shore of the reef. No one it seems had so far made a serious effort to go in search of whales beyond the reef which lies around 6km out, roughly parallel to the peninsula. Any references to the reef in this article is not to Barr Reef which is off Kandakuliya, to which people go snorkelling.

Sri Lanka already had two sites known for its whales. Trincomalee known for its whales since the 1980s. But as at February 2010, it is yet to be assessed for its whale watching strike rate, in Sri Lanka’s post-war environment. I had already led the publicity campaign for Dondra. I was back in Kalpitiya to research another story. That Kalpitiya could be the other whale watching hot spot in Sri Lanka.

My last effort on 19 April 2009 to look for whales off Kalpitiya was thwarted by bad weather. I had anxiously watched the rough seas and diverted my effort to undertake three sessions to find and photograph the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins in the Puttalam Lagoon. My successful adventure with Dallas Martenstyn was written in the July-August 2009 issue of Serendib, the in-flight magazine of Sri Lankan.

Despite the bad weather, I had tried once. With the boat buffeted by strong waves, and the chances of spotting a blow almost nil, I called off the search. I decided to bide my time for the next season after the current South-west Monsoon had spent its energy.

My next dedicated whale watching session off Kalpitiya had been the day before, on Tuesday 23rd February 2010. Two boats set out. One had Sandie Dawe, the Chief Executive of Visit Britain, with her husband Jock. They would follow the ‘Dolphin Line’, broadly an area which ran North-South parallel to the Kalpitiya Peninsular, in-shore of the reef. The other boat, prepared with three tanks of fuel and food and water for a long sea faring session carried me, Dallas Martnestyn and Georgina Viney with boatman Susantha for a deep sea mission. None of what I have done in Kalpitiya would have been possible with the help of Dallas and his team who put together all the logistics for my whale watching trips. It is thanks to Dallas and his fellow investors at Alankuda that the world learnt about the dolphin watching at Kalpitiya. As we headed out, we paused a few times to gauge the depth using a fish finder. In a conversation on 24th March 2009 at Alankuda with British marine biologist Dr Charles Anderson and Dallas Martenstyn, Charles had articulated that the continental shelf may be close to Kalpitiya which could explain the presence of the Spinner Dolphins.

The whale watching effort this time got of to a fairy tale start. We had left at 7.00 am and at 7.55am, English photographer Georgina Viney spotted the first blow whilst Dallas and I were fiddling with our two GPS units. We were at N 08 03 583 E 79 35 300 approximately 7 nautical miles out from the shore (Alankuda Beach Resort is at N 08 03 121 E 79 42 560). We had encountered a group of five Sperm Whales. I explained to Susantha he should never make a direct bearing to the whale and explained the importance of keeping a distance from the whale where it would be comfortable with the boat. I coached him on how to pull parallel to a whale and not approach it from behind. Once Susantha had understood these basic techniques I explained what I call the ‘arc-forward’. It works as follows. If you are parallel at a comfortable distance to a ‘logging’ Sperm Whale you pulls away from the whale, and then travel well ahead and later pull back into its projected path, describing a wide semi-circle. You then cut the engine off. If you have pulled in front several hundred meters from the Sperm Whale, if it is comfortable with you, it will swim up to and past the boat. The Sperm Whales off Sri Lankan waters are used to fishing vessels and have no fear of boats. By letting the whale approach you, you may be able to obtain close sightings and have them around for much longer than if you rushed up to one.

We spent about 15 minutes with the school that were traveling on a South to North trajectory parallel to the peninsula. A fishing boat raced up to a Sperm Whale we had been following in parallel at a distance and it immediately dived, proving what I had explained to our boatman.

I was elated that the search for whales had been so successful. Dallas and Georgina were not going to join me for the next two trips. Georgina was to spend that evening and the next morning photographing the Alankuda Beach Resort. So I recruited two new research assistants, Nikki Connolly and Linda Fennell, the sister and mother in law respectively of James Fennell, an Irish Photographer who had done the photography for the book ‘Living in Sri Lanka’ published by Thames and Hudson. I needed a few more pairs of eyes to look for the tell tale blow of a whale and also to operate the Canon XL1S video camera I had brought. The sea had turned rough when he headed out at 3pm. At the boat scudded along, it felt as we were being dragged along the gravel bed of a dry riverbed strapped to a wooden board and picked up and slammed down intermittently as well. We searched in vain for over three hours and we returned as darkness fell, and the orange glow in the sky had dimmed.

Determined to find more whales, the third consecutive whale watching session had begin before day break. I was joined once again by Nikki Connolly and Linda Fennell who had been excited by the images I had taken the previous morning. These are probably the first images of Sperm Whales taken off Kalpitiya of a publishable standard. We headed out due West and the traveled on a South to North axis past the previous day’s sighting which I had marked on Jonathan Martenstyn’s GPS unit. We continued North keeping out sea at a distance of around seven nautical miles, with the shoreline no longer in sight. I stood for some of the journey to enhance our chances of spotting a blow. Three hours of searching yielded nothing when on the way back, I saw a burst of spray dancing over the waves. We had found Sperm Whales. There was a group of three and another pair. They were traveling South, on a South-North trajectory, at a pace of around 10 kmph.

Susantha knew how to handle them this time and we spent over an hour with the group keeping a comfortable distance and trying out the arc-forward a few times. The school of Sperm Whales remained offshore of the reef but were approaching the front of the Alankuda Beach Resort. An earlier phone call brought out James and Jo Fenell with their family. We had positioned the boat a few hundred meters in front of the Sperm Whales when the Fennells arrived and we gestured them to stop. A few minutes later a logging Sperm Whale arrived and swam closely, between the two boats, completely unruffled by the two boats which had both cut their engines. Another Sperm Whale approached us, swam within to ten feet and raised it head to look at us. Then it dived underneath the two boats and re-surfaced about thirty feet away and continued swimming. We decided to leave them go, to avoid causing stress and watched them receding into the distance. For Nikki Connolly it was the highlight of her holiday in Sri Lanka.

Susantha the boatman said that only just once before had he come out beyond the reef to look for whales. It had been with some of the staff. He said that with clients they always stayed in-shore of the reef to look for dolphins and that they encountered a stray whale about once every three weeks. That evening I spoke to Jonathan Martenstyn who runs the boats from Dolphin Beach. He also confirmed that they stay in-shore of the reef and had never gone looking for whales. He said their rate of encounter with whales was les than with Alankuda who ran more dolphin trips. Chitral Jayathilake of John Keels who runs the whale watching from Mirissa and dolphin watching from Kalpitiya also confirmed that they stayed in-shore of the reef. Chitral had never gone out to look for whales off Kalpitiya and had never seen one here, in-shore or off-shore of the reef. Even Dallas Martenstyn had told me that the only time he went out beyond the reef to look for whales was when he had gone out with Georgina and me the previous morning.

It seems quite astonishing that with Kalpitiya becoming publicly known two years earlier for its dolphin watching no one had made a dedicated effort to whale watch and evaluate whale watching as an eco-tourism product from Kalpitiya.

It was not that people had not reported whales from Kalpitiya before. There had been a trickle of reports from people who had gone dolphin watching. Initially, I had dismissed them as chance events. I was a skeptic until March 2009. No one had offered a concrete reason for why Kalpitiya should be good for whales.

My earlier doubts about Kalpitiya being good for whales had to do with the location of the continental shelf. I knew the continental shelf held the key to an area of sea being good for whale watching. It had to be close to land. I had looked for whales off Negombo and Kirinda for example and failed because one had to travel out over 30 nautical miles to reach the edge of the shelf. In May 2008, I had taken the story to the world that the seas South of Mirissa was beyond doubt the best place in the world for seeing Blue Whales. My conviction was based on field results of a theory by the British marine scientist Dr Charles Anderson. In addition to a theory of a migratory movement, a key to the ease and proximity of sightings was the fact that the continental shelf pinched in very close to Dondra Head.

Reports of the dolphins from Alankuda were regular and almost daily outside of the South-west Monsoon. Most of the dolphins seen were Spinner Dolphins, an oceanic species. I just could not understand why Kalpitiya was so good for an oceanic species. My interpretation of Admiralty Chart No 828 Cochin to Vishakhapatnam was that the continental shelf was just too far out from Kalpitiya. I remember telling Libby Southwell in the second half of 2008, that would be whale watchers from Alankuda were not likely to get anything more than the odd stray whale. But I wondered whether there was a submarine canyon which in conjunction with a movement of currents or tides somehow created a channel rich in nutrients which created an unusual and exceptionally rich concentration of marine life. The Spinner Dolphins would be a top predator of this unusually focussed food chain off Kalpitiya.

A more likely answer came on 24th March 2009 as I listened to Charles explaining to Dallas Martenstyn that the latter’s observations of dolphins and the occasional stray whale could be explained by the continental shelf being closer than was previously believed. He also thought that there could be whales to be seen beyond the reef. I interjected. I had been circulating a graphic we had done based on British Admiralty Chart No 828 which showed that the continental shelf was far out from Kalpitiya, not close to it. Charles disagreed with my interpretation and we pulled out a bundle of admiralty charts that Dallas had in the office. I saw that the 1,000m depth contour which is my personal benchmark is not actually shown on any of the admiralty charts. I had carelessly interpolated. It was easier to interpolate smoothly along where the depth was available and draw the 1,000m isocline far out from Kalpitiya than to imagine that somehow it pinched in close to the Kalpitiya Peninsula like it did at Dondra.

Hmmm. But I was not going to be proven wrong so easily. I pulled out Admiralty Chart No 1586 Pamban to Cape Comorin. “Look” I said to Charles pointing to a depth at a distance from the shore on the chart which was marked at something like 284m, “This clearly shows that the depths are not great at this distance. The continental shelf must be far out. There must be some other reason why the dolphins are coming in”. However, Charles countered ‘See the dash and the dot over the depth number. That means the depth is greater than the amount shown. They ran out of rope’. I studied the charts more intently and with Charles teaching me to read the charts the realisation swept over me, that what I had misinterpreted as hard evidence for a wide shallow basin was no evidence at all. In fact location of the edge of continental shelf was wide open. There was absolutely no data available at that time to us or anyone to know conclusively where the continental shelf lay. I instinctively knew that Charles with his deep experience was onto something. I was astonished by the idea that the continental shelf could be pinching into the Kalpitiya Peninsula as it does at Dondra. That night, long after the others had turned in, I waited in the ‘Ambalama’ thumbing through the charts. Occasionally I stared out to sea, immersed in thought, a shiver of excitement running through me. I knew that Dr Charles Anderson had led me onto another big story. The next day, on 25th March 2009, Dr Charles Anderson, Dallas Martnestyn and I went dolphin watching from Alankuda and saw around 600 Spinner Dolphins. I returned to office as there was a business to run. But I knew I had to come back to nail the story with evidence. I needed to get the whales and get the depths.

Realizing the value of the insight offered by Charles Anderson I wrote about in a book which was published in January 2010. The book was “Sri Lanka the other half’ by Juliet Coombe and Daisy Perry. As far as I know, this was the first airing in print of a theory that the continental shelf is very close to Kalpitiya and that as a result Kalpitiya could be good for whale watching.

On 24th March 2009 I had realised I needed to get the whales and the depths to confirm Charles Anderson’s insight that the continental shelf was close and that explained the presence of whales straying to the dolphin line. I was elated that on 24th February 2010 I had finally found the whales. But I decided not call or text anyone yet with the news that there was conclusive evidence that Kalpitiya could be a whale watching hotspot. In my heart, I knew I did not have all the pieces together. The depth soundings I had taken with Dallas with a fish finder effective up to 700 feet was mickey mouse data. It did not prove anything. Co-incidentally Charles who had pulled into Colombo Harbour briefly, had called me on Friday 19th February. I told him quite proudly that on the Monday I would be driving to Kalpitiya and I will set out with Dallas and a fish finder to test his theory. Charles said that it would require very sophisticated equipment. Driving back, that Wednesday, I knew that the only chance for any meaningful data lay with the National Aquatic Research Agency (NARA). What followed was a remarkable series of fortuitous meetings.

The next day, on the Thursday 25th February I attended a meeting at the World Bank convened by Sumith Pilapaitiya. I looked around for people who could help me in the search for the missing data. I homed in on Dr Malik Fernando a marine biologist and asked him if there was any data available on depths off Kalpitiya and where the continental shelf may lie. Malik told me how he had swum with Arjan Rajasuriya from NARA in the area where they had thought the continental shelf plunged into a deep abyss. Dallas Martenstyn had also told me on the last visit that with his experience as an angler, sailor and diver, that the continental shelf was close. But visibility in water does not go beyond a hundred feet. No one can peer down to a few hundred meters and see the edge of the shelf plunging a kilometer or two deep. So although there were clearly others who shared the Anderson theory, I only had gut feelings to go by. I desperately needed hard data. As if reading my mind, S.A.M. Azmy, Head of the Environmental Studies Division of NARA joined us and introduced himself as from NARA. I asked him whether there were any data, any recent data at all of depth soundings off the Kalpitiya Peninsula. He explained that the search for oil had resulted in the sea floor being mapped. I asked him whether it would show the 1,000m and 2,000m isoclines. He confirmed it would and in fact said that they would have that for all around the island.

The following day on Friday 26th February 2010 as I drove to NARA I called Asantha Sirimanne from Vanguard who produce Lanka Business Online (LBO), Lanka Business Report on ETV, etc. They are one of my favourite media teams for the depth, accuracy and analysis in their reporting. I told him how I was on my way to collect data to prove that Kalpitiya can be a whale watching hot spot. I told him how three days earlier I had watched Sperm Whales swim South to North and a day later I had followed a school of Sperm Whales swimming the opposite way in a straight North-South axis. Its almost as if the 1,000m and 2,000m isoclines ran parallel to the Kalpitiya peninsula. They were clearly hunting along this line as I watched them dive down repeatedly and emerge later on the same axis.

On 26 February 2010, S.A. M. Azmy Head of the Environmental Studies Division of NARA pulled out a chart which showed in remarkable detail the depth contours off the Kalpitiya Peninsula mapped for exploration of oil. There in front of me were the depth contours which showed that the continental shelf was indeed very close and that the edge of the shelf, where it rapidly plunged to 1,000 and 2,000m was parallel to the peninsula. It was the North-South axis at E 79 35 the Sperm Whales had hunted on and for which I had taken GPS readings. I could not believe how well it all fitted together. Wow.

Technically speaking the continental shelf is defined as the 200m isocline and here that was as close as 4 nautical miles. The 1,000m depth isocline which I use as a benchmark for whale watching was 9 nautical miles away. I was probably the first person from the general public to see this chart which had been published internally in October 2009. The data simply had not been available when Charles Anderson had first convinced me to re-consider my view. The data had come out seven months later and I suspected that few in marine biological circles were aware of it.

The previous evening, I had attended a dinner hosted by master facilitator Chris Dharmakirthi at his new house. Seated on either side of me was Tissa Vitarana the Minister for Science and Technology and Dileep Mudadeniya, the Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. I regaled them with stories of the arc-forward technique and how I had Sperm Whales swimming up to within a few feet of the boat and how one even swam under my boat, completely unafraid and un-disturbed, approaching us entirely at their discretion. I mentioned I was visiting NARA the next day to see the depth data from the oil exploration and details of the shape of the continental shelf around the island. Chris Dharmakirthi mentioned he was involved in the DECOM Project, the Project on Delimitation of the Outer Edge of the Continental Shelf of Sri Lanka under UNCLOS. So I asked Azmy about DECOM. He had already briefed M.A. Ariyawansa the Head of the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) that I would be visiting.

M.A. Ariyawansa, the Head of the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) introduced me to his team and to their amusement I rushed over to a pile of maps on a table and began thumbing through feverishly. Out came an untitled map simply which showed the 200, 1,000 and 2,000m depth isoclines around Sri Lanka and the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone. It showed the continental shelf pinching in three places. Trincomalee with a submarine canyon which has been known for some time and shown in the Admiralty charts. There was Dondra, again shown on the Admiralty charts but its significance for whale watching unknown until Charles Anderson had explained it to me in August 2003. There was only one other place. The Kalpitiya Peninsula. The edge of the shelf where it plunges to depths of a kilometer and more, runs along a North-South axis at approximately E 79 35. It remains un-changed in position for example between Colombo and the Kalpitiya Peninsula. However, because of the curvature of the island, it is far from Colombo but very close to the Kalpitiya Peninusla.

It is easier to explain this with the metaphor that the edge of the shelf with deep depths comes in close to Kalpitiya or that the Kalpitiya Peninisula pushes out (relative to Colombo for example) to where the edge of the shelf lies.

Sri Lanka therefore has three places which in terms of the location of the continental shelf is positioned ideally to be whale watching hot spots because the whale and oceanic dolphins need deep water to come close in. I had now found the conclusive evidence which connected the dots to show that Kalpitiya was one and in fact the last of the three whale watching hot spots to be recognized as such. My role once again had been to listen to scientists and to go out and do the field work and connect the dots to make a big story to bridge science with commerce. I was on a commercial agenda to connect whale watching in Kalpitiya with leopards in Wilpattu (the park was to open that Saturday 27th February). This gave tour operators like Jetwing Eco Holidays a second option for the whales at Mirissa and leopards at Yala. But I also knew that I enjoyed being the man who takes a big story about Sri Lanka to the world, like I had done with Best for Blue Whale, The Gathering of Elephants, Leopard’s Island and so on.

The NHO team were very helpful, courteous and genuinely interested in their work. They gave me a print out of the Mannar depths and a custom print out of the chart showing the continental shelf. I came out of NARA clutching the remaining evidence why Kalpitiya can be a whale watching hot spot. It is utterly strange that despite two years of dolphin watching, only I had ventured out with the purpose of finding whales to develop whale watching tourism and that within a matter of days, the hard data to prove the latest Charles Anderson theory were in my hand. The chart with the continental shelf was dated January 2010. My timing had been perfect. A few weeks earlier and the chart may not have existed.

On my way back to the office I triumphantly called Asantha Sirimanne and Renuke Sadananthan (Sunday Times) to announce that I had a story backed up by hard mapping data and field work to prove that Kalpitiya is one of three whale watching hotspots in Sri Lanka.

On 1 April 2008 when I set out to prove that Sri Lanka is the ‘Best for Blue Whale’ I realized that the boat crew could not at that point in time tell apart Sperm Whales from Blue Whales. It was the same at Alankuda on Tuesday 23rd February 2010. This will change very quickly as it did in Mirissa as clients switch their focus from dolphins to whales. I had listened to first hand accounts of dolphin watchers who claimed to have seen Humpback Whales. But by asking them questions, I had realised they had not seen Humpback Whales which have distinctively long white pectoral flippers. They said the whales ‘humped their back’ before diving. I now realise they have been seeing Sperm Whales which do this. The presence of the 1,000m and 2,000m depth isoclines parallel to the peninsula suggests that there is a deep edge which is a suitable hunting ground for Sperm Whales which are the champion divers of the animal kingdom and habitually dive to depths of between one to three kilometers. Dr Charles Anderson had also told Dallas and me that the South-west Monsoon may bring nutrients from the Arabian Sea as well as from up-wellings from the Kerala Coast to the peninsula. There may be other up-wellings off the peninsula which make it a rich feeding ground. Howard Martenstyn had emailed me accounts of his dolphin watching trips where he had seen more than one species of dolphin in large numbers. Of the three records of Orca since 2008, two have been at Kalptiya, photographed in March 2008 by Senaka Abeyratne and on 31 January 2010 by Maithri Liyanage. It is likely that Kalpitiya could rival Mirissa for the diversity of species of marine mammals. However, Mirissa may remain the top spot for watching Blue Whales because the migratory movement postulated by Dr Charles Anderson takes them past Dondra twice. I saw no Blue Whales on the two days I was whale watching at Kalpitiya. In contrast on Wednesday 24th February, Anoma Alagiyawadu, the Jetwing Lighthouse naturalist observed what he believed to be seven different Blue Whales from Mirissa. But there were also six days between the 17th and 22nd February where no Blue Whales were seen, but partly because the sailings were short due to rough weather. It is too early to conclude where Trincomalee, Mirissa and Kalpitiya will rank in terms of overall species diversity, the likelihood of seeing Blue Whales and Sperm Whales, etc. But what is very clear is that we have a scientific basis for concluding that Sri Lanka has three key sites for whale watching because of the proximity of the continental shelf, the marine mammal species diversity and logistics. The three sites could result in Sri Lanka emerging as the leading whale watching destination in the world.

A lot more work needs to be done to assess the strike rate for seeing whales at Kaplitiya. In May 2008, when I broke the story that Southern Sri Lanka is the best for Blue Whales, I had 22 days of data with a hundred pr cent strike rate for April 2008. With Kalpitiya, I am relying on the steady stream of reports of whales and other marine mammals corroborated by just a a few days at se by myself and the proximity of the edge of the shelf. All of this seems to fit in with the idea that Kalpitiya has high potential.

From the conversations I had with Dallas and Jonathan Martenstyn, Chitral Jayathilake and Maithri Liyanagae (Ruwala Adventure & Nature Resort) it was clear that none of the boat operators were going off shore of the reef after whales off the shores of Kalpitiya. They stayed in the dolphin watching area between the reef and the shore and had only the occasional chance sighting of a whale. My whale watching sessions and this article have now created awareness that whales can be seen off the Kalpitiya Peninsula if you set out to look for them. If you are called out for a sighting it could at times be as little as thirty minutes away but three hours of searching is more likely. The explanation that the continental shelf is close to Kalpitiya explains why. At least two boatmen have now learnt from me how to handle the Sperm Whales and begun to show them to clients. The appetite to go after whales from Kalpitiya and not to dally with just the dolphins will grow. Serious whale watching will now start from Kalpitiya. A trail has been blazed. In Kalpitiya as with elsewhere, legislation or guidelines will need to come in for the safety of the whales as well as the whale watchers. But legislation must be intelligent, practical and simple, to allow the whale watching industry to grow and create livelihoods. Whale Watching in Sri Lanka can easily grow to be worth several billion rupees of revenue each year. Wildlife can pay its way.
Wildlife celebrity Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne can be found on Facebook and Flickr. Almost every major wildlife tourism product in Sri Lanka has had Gehan playing a pivotal role in its research and commercial development.