Mirissa is a sharp contrast to Bentota; where Bentota is an authentic Sri Lankan town just finding its tourist sea legs, Mirissa is a surf destination for people around the world. Where Bentota has either honeymooners or quiet middle-aged travelers, Mirissa has tanned, hard-bodied twenty-somethings with dreadlocks and tattoos that beach party by night and surf by day.
Mirissa, and it's neighboring town Weligama, make up a collection of bays with rolling waves around 1-2 meters tall. The tide is strong and only about a half beachgoers seem to brave anything past waist depth. The two activities that draw people to Mirissa are surfing and whale watching. Both of which provide decipherable industry to hotels, restaurants and surf schools. The impact on cuisine is also apparent as Sri Lankan is the minority taste of choice. (That said, we found a Roti Shop on TripAdvisor that served us AMAZING roti and kottu (a roti mixed with vegetables and chopped to bits ceremoniously with two blunt pieces of steel - loudness is part of the dish). They also do pre-ordered curries that we ordered for our Christmas dinner (most of Sri Lanka is Bhuddist and only celebrates Xmas as entertainment or tool in entice Western tourists). )
Side Note: It was in Mirissa that we learned to check each tuktuk before agreeing to pay for a ride as MANY times there is a bottle of Vodka riding shotgun in the cupholder (if the cupholder is hidden, you KNOW it's Vodka).
On Christmas Day, we left by tuktuk at 6:30 in the morning to go whale watching. The harbor was rammed with tourists flocking onto boats with sleepy dogs drifting between their legs and brown monkeys above, balancing with their long tails along the power lines. At about 7 am all 12 double decker boats left the harbor, in a true tourist Pirates of the Caribbean procession.
After about 40 min. of driving all the boats stopped and waited. Jokes began to start about seeing anything at all and then, "There! Blowing!" A spray of mist in the horizon. Over the course of the next hour or two we would see three blue wales spray a plume of mist followed by a gentle flick of their tails around 7 times.
On the way back our captain let us have a Xmas day swim (only four of us did) but we were lucky to be joined by a green turtle. That night we ate a vegetable curry at our favorite roti shop with many sunburnt Christians to the bang of kottus being beaten in the kitchen.
The best day however would be the next, as we woke up at 4 am to leave Mirissa and go on a safari at Udawalawa National Park, a refuge for over 250 wild elephants (even before we entered, with the sun rising over the reservoir, a large elephant was grazing along the fence). The safari started at 7 am with us as the only passengers of an enormous Jeep. Morning mist drifted along the trees as we entered and every tall tree was accompanied by the silhouette of a peacock's tail feathers. It had recently rained, making the air cool and humid like a greenhouse in the winter. From there, we saw our first of what would be four elephant groups (including two baby elephants only a couple months old!), a herd of water buffalo running through a lake, loads of peacocks and many other exotic, colourful birds. Vic cried in the first fifteen minutes and we both agreed it was the best thing we've ever done together.
Click to enlarge pics - because the baby elephant!!!!