FULLY BOOKED. Contact Scuba Travel for reserve list. The blue whale is the biggest creature in the ocean, the largest animal that has ever lived. The ocean’s most famous inhabitant is featured in just about every book ever written about the sea, including on the first page of my Underwater Photography Masterclass! Target species for underwater photographers don’t come any bigger – in pretty much every sense – especially when you consider how few people have ever had the chance to swim with blues in the ocean.

Alex Mustard and Kay Burn Lim photograph a blue whale in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka, photographed by Eric Goh 2018.
Alex Mustard photographs and Kay Burn Lim films a blue whale in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka, photographed by Eric Goh 2018.

Sri Lanka supports a growing seasonal population of blue whales. A number of locations offer whale watching from the surface, but our operator is the only one with a government licence from the Department of Wildlife Conservation that permits in water encounters. This is the same operation and guides used by Blue Planet 2, who boast a 100% record from the 2018 season – with in water encounters with blue whales every single day they went out. Alex has been invited to run the first photography workshop focused the biggest animal on the planet. This is your chance to be part of it.

Although you don’t need to be a scuba diver, this trip is not for everyone. No whale photography is easy and blues are renowned for being amongst the most challenging. Blue whales are fast and often shy and our goal is to slip silently into the water ahead of them and hope for a pass. They don’t stop and pose!

Alex adds, “this is a trip that demands dedication, you need to be up for the challenge physically and mentally. The whales can be hard to find – meaning long days out on the ocean in small, basic boats. There may be lots of waiting. There may be days without whales. There may be weather days when we cannot go out. There may be times when the naturalist guides on each boat will not allow us into the water. You can expect uncomfortable speeding across the water in the boat to loop around and get ahead of the fast moving whales. It is exhausting and even muscles you didn’t even know you had will hurt. You need to stay positive through all of this and be ready for the moments when it all comes together. When you are there, in the big blue, face to face with a big blue. These are moments you’ll remember for the rest of your life and I want you to get great shots.”

Blue Whale. Sri Lanka

These are the wildest of animals and if you join this workshop you do have to be prepared that they don’t show up or that rough seas can stop us going out. To be clear, there is no refund for not finding whales or for weather days (although we do have a world-class wildlife experience on land as a contingency). That said this particular location in Sri Lanka has an unrivalled track record of success. Alex says “over the past four years my friend Eric Goh (who took the image at the top of the page) has brought 10 groups of friends here with 100% success of whale encounters. In 2018, I photographed blue whales underwater every day we went out, but there was also lots of waiting and plenty of bruises from the boat. Furthermore, the area also commonly attracts several other species of whales (including sperm whales) and our permit allows in water encounters with all of them.”

The aim of Alex’s workshop is to educate you in the correct in-water approach for photographing blue whales and to cover the photographic decisions ahead of time, to ensure that you give yourself the best possible encounters and maximise your images from every one. The workshop will also cover some advanced techniques for processing whale photos in Lightroom and Photoshop.

This workshop is open to 11 photographers/snorkellers only (non-photographers are welcome to take the places, and some photographers do choose to bring a dedicated model to give the whales a sense of scale). The group will be split across 4 boats, with 3 people only on each boat. The boats are small, for manoeuvring close to the whales and have quiet engines for a stealthy approach. The workshop includes 7 days on the water – a standard day is 6 hours, but you can add extra hours when the conditions are good (at a cost of $100 per hour, i.e. $33 per person). We usually head out early and return in early afternoon.

Alex adds “you will notice that there are not specific details of the tour and hotels on this page. The operator prefers to keep their special location undisclosed to avoid encouraging unlicensed boats (without trained naturalist guides) from trying to put people in the water with whales in this unique place. Full details will, of course, be sent to those who book this trip.”

Blue Whale. Sri Lanka

VITALS

Colombo – Colombo: 1-10th March 2019. Price USD $ 6150. Includes land transfers. 9 nights accommodation. Full board following arrival day. 7 days (6 hours per day, extendable) searching for blue whale encounters (weather permitting). Trained naturalist guides. Alex Mustard Workshop.

Group size: 11 + Alex. Split over 4 boats (3 people per boat).

A deposit of $2000 USD is required to secure your place on this special trip (deposits will be taken at the end of May 2018, see below).

Alex adds “as stressed above this trip is not for everyone, I am keen to make sure that the whole group is right for this experience and this experience is right for each them. There is no scuba diving on this trip and you do not need to be a diver to join. However, you do need to comfortable in the water and happy spending hours in the open ocean on small boats (the seas is typically very calm, very warm and very blue in Sri Lanka at this time). Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. However, before deposits are taken and places are confirmed I will check the list of names. To those I know, if I feel that this trip is not right for you, I will let you know. For any I don’t know, I will contact you about your ocean experiences, to be sure that this workshop is right for you before confirming your place.” Note that Alex is away in Galapagos until 15th May 2018 – and will go through the list of names with Scuba Travel on his return, after which, deposits will be taken.

For reservations etc please email Caroline@scubatravel.com

Blue Whale. Sri Lanka