Tidings from the Turtles – Snorkeling in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Meeting Squirt in the Great Barrier Reef was an experience that put turtles high on my list of sea creatures to spot when diving or snorkeling. I wasn’t sure if I would get another memorable experience like that one again. Little did I know that they would be happy to meet me again – not once but umpteen times along the coast of Sri Lanka. And I do not mean the turtle hatcheries of Sri Lanka. I mean meeting them on my underwater expeditions across Sri Lanka – especially when snorkeling in Mirissa.

Snorkeling with the turtles in Mirissa
Snorkeling with the turtles in Mirissa

With its rich coral reefs, the coastline around Sri Lanka is teeming with rich marine critters. Mirissa, in particular, offers both diving trips and snorkeling tours that help you experience this underwater biodiversity. I was quite torn between wanting to do a dive or try a snorkeling experience in Mirissa. With a little thought and research, I chose to go ahead with a snorkeling tour in Mirissa. It turned out to be perfect. Not just me, but my Dottie too, loved this Mirissa snorkeling experience. By the end of this post, I bet you too, would have added this experience to your things to do in Mirissa.

Snorkeling in Mirissa

Coral reefs by the Mirissa beach
Coral reefs by the Mirissa beach

You can enjoy snorkeling in Sri Lanka in many locations along its coastlines – Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Trincomalee, etc. However, Mirissa is perfect for this experience. For one, the tropical water along its beaches is quite clear, allowing you to see the miracles of underwater clearly. There are a variety of reefs to snorkel – from gentle, shallow ones to deeper ones that you can access via a boat. The biggest plus is that it is all in the beach town and you do not have to go very far from it. The most popular spot to snorkel is around the famous Parrot Rock and the Turtle bay.

Preparation for Snorkeling

There are a variety of snorkeling tours available in Mirissa. From snorkeling with turtles to snorkeling with whales – you can actually pick the one that suits you. Since it was the first time that my Dottie was attempting this activity on her own, I chose the shore snorkeling with turtles. I also, signed up with a PADI dive shop for I wanted her to have a safe and knowledgeable guide for her first time.

PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. It is a leading body on Scuba Diving internationally and one can get their scuba certification by opting for one of their dive courses. I did my own certification in Open Water Diving through them. To know how you can do it and what the course entails, you can check out my own experience of this PADI course. 
Turtle Bay in Mirissa
Turtle Bay in Mirissa

Ideally, I should have booked this online but since my Dottie and hubby were a little unsure of trying this, we signed up through our hotel. The Dive shop picked us up and brought us to Turtle Bay for our expedition. While we donned our snorkeling gear, the PADI divemaster explained the snorkeling path to us. He made my Dottie and hubby practice some breathing through the tube while explaining how to push out the water in case it got into the tube. Since the sea was a little choppy that day, as a comfort factor, he offered a life jacket to the newbies. Flippers on, he instructed the pair to walk into the water.

Snorkeling in Mirissa with the turtles
Dottie and me swimming towards the turtles

My hubby, who is anyway a non-water baby, realized the pain of being a bigfoot. πŸ˜‰ In his anxiety of the rising waves, he missed this instruction and walked forwards to fall flat on his nose (Well, almost!).  Thankfully he was in the water and missed getting hurt. However, that was the last straw for him coz he realized he just did not want to battle the salty waves. He decided to wade out back under the safety of the coconut tree while the rest of us swam away towards the part that was supposedly hiding a turtle.

Meeting Splash

Happy to be fed - Splash the turtle encountered during our snorkeling expedition
Happy to be fed – Splash the turtle encountered during our snorkeling expedition

Just a few strokes away and there he was. Splash – the Green turtle in Mirissa. A cousin to the Hawk billed Squirt, this one was happy to engage us with his antics. I lost sight of all the other creatures around him as I followed him up and down, left and right. Not only did he allow me to swim with him, but he was also happy to feed off the guide’s hand. Hit play below to see his antics.

YouTube video

In his gurgly-bubbly language, he always conveyed his stats to me πŸ˜‰ Basically, he is one of the most commonly found species in the Indian ocean. As a kid, he was happy to hog other creatures who irritated him but he turned vegetarian when he grew up to an adult. Typically, with his diet in control, he is said to weigh around 250 kg. And he also, has a girlfriend who lays around 120 eggs at a time. πŸ˜‰ Splash was happy to keep swimming around and refused to come out to the shore. In his own language, he said that his species always prefer the beach at night.

Corals and Critters

Finding the other critters while snorkeling
Finding the other critters while snorkeling

We got the message from Splash that we were to continue our journey while he scoured the ocean floor for some dessert. And thus, with a wave, we followed the blue surgeonfish to explore the rest of the reef. The critter led us to the seemingly multi-colored bed of corals with hidden moray eels and spiky sea urchins. A school of monos and sergents kept zipping out of its many crevices.

Following a few of them, I landed at yet another rocky floor that had tons of snappers and rabbitfish. A shallow dive also, allowed me to glimpse at the clamps. I am sure that a scuba dive would have allowed me to see more.

Sergents around the big reef in Mirissa
Sergents around the big reef in Mirissa

It was over two hours and we kept discovering more and more of the underwater wonders. Our fingertips were beyond recognition and are lips had wrinkled with the sea salt and yet we did not want to stop. However, the tide was turning and it was in our best interest to get out. Once on the shore, I asked my Dottie about how she found this experience. She replied with a question – “When can we do this again?”

Snorkeling in Mirissa opened up a new world of water adventure for my Dottie. And if it did that to her, am sure you will find it even more amazing. So go on and add this to your list of Mirissa attractions.

Snorkeling in Mirissa

How to book a Mirissa snorkeling tour?

  • As I mentioned, there are tons of snorkeling tours that you can opt for when in Mirissa. Almost every hotel and tour operator offers you the same. A 2-hour tour will cost you 3500 LKR or USD 20.
  • There are quite a few websites that you can use to book your snorkeling tour. Here is a link that will get you some discount for a snorkeling tour with turtles. Booking through this link will not cost you anything additional but will help me earn a little commission to keep this website going πŸ™‚
  • It is advisable to go with a PADI certified guide. They are well trained to handle a lot of water situations and can guide you efficiently.
  • Ideally, it is best to have your own snorkeling equipment. However, if you do not have one, make sure that the rented equipment is clean and well maintained. Pick a mask that covers your face properly and does not allow water in. Rinse your snorkel tubes before you use it. You should blow through them to ensure that the hole is not clogged.

How to reach Mirissa?

  • 150 km from Colombo, you can reach Mirissa by road or rail.
  • While Uber maybe the easiest to get from the airport, it is likely that it is a little expensive. It might cost you anything between 13000 – 15000 LKR. There are a lot of online deals like this one that can get you a rented ride from the airport to Mirissa.
  • Buses are the other option that can get you to Mirissa from Colombo. While a cab might take you a little around 3 – 4 hours, a bus will take longer . However, it is a little more affordable with tickets ranging between 900 to 1500 LKR.
  • Check the railway schedule here for express trains from Colombo to Mirissa. They would cost you 200 LKR for a 2nd class ticket.

Where to stay in Mirissa?

  • The beach town has plenty of options when it comes to staying. Based on your budget, you can opt for a stay in a luxury resort or a homestay.
  • We stayed in Sira’s Chalets that we booked through Booking.com. You can use this link to book yours too. It will help me earn a little commission without any additional cost to you.
  • In case you want to look at other options, try looking through this weblink

Travel Tips

  • Refer to this Mirissa Travel Guide for the best time to visit this place and other things to do.
  • When snorkeling, please do not attempt to touch any sea creature.
  • Lather yourself with a lot of sunscreen before you get into the water.
  • Remember to rinse your snorkel equipment after the swim with fresh water. Leave it out to dry under the sun. It is common courtesy to do this, especially when you use the rented equipment.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
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28 thoughts on “Tidings from the Turtles – Snorkeling in Mirissa, Sri Lanka”

  1. I love Mirissa, it was one of my favourite part of Sri Lanka. We went on a whale watching tour and saw some turtles but we didn’t do the snorkelling.

  2. Wow what an underwater adventure you had Ami! I’ve yet to visit Sri Lanka, but would absolutely love to see these wondrous creatures in their own habitat. I agree that going with a PADI certified instructor and company is important. I appreciate the tips also on not touching any sea creatures, it’s a good reminder for us all.

  3. OMG this is extraordinary! Turtles are such beautiful, amazing, creatures. Your experience and photos actually made me misty eyed lol. Thank you for reminding people not to touch the sea creatures they encounter, we are guests in their home, after all. This is such a unique experience to have had, I hope I get to do the same some day!

  4. They are so adorable! I’ve never visited Sri Lanka but I would LOVE to, even just to see these special animals. I’ve never actually scuba dived either.. time to change that! I’m sure it was totally worth it to get all wrinkly under the water.

  5. So cool that you got to see a turtle while snorkeling here! I’m PADI certified and still have yet to see a turtle on one of my dives. The turtle looked happy to engage with you, which was surprising for me to see because I feel like most animals underwater are more afraid of humans than willing to engage with them.

    • Somehow all the turtles that I found along the SL coast were happy to engage with us. Guess they are friendlier than we give them credit for. Hope you get a chance soon to explore for yourself. Thanks Diana, for stopping by

  6. This looks like a surreal experience to have in Sri Lanka. Whenever I hear about Sri Lanka it’s about the lush jungle and train rides, not for the snorkeling. Your photos prove that the snorkeling is just another thing to boast about! I’ve snorkeled in numerous places around the world, but can’t say that I’ve snorkeled with turtles before. I’d love to visit and meet Splash myself!

  7. I enjoyed your video, Under water moment is the amazing and that is the great experience to you. Thanks for the share those photos.

  8. I have always thought that the underworld is the most beautiful scenery in the world. Nothing compares to the rich coral reefs and abundant marine ecosystem.

    Happy to know about your Mirissa snorkeling experience. I would definitely love to meet Splash if given a chance. He’s so cute and adorable.

  9. Whoa! You took your daughter snorkeling??? She must have been over the clouds (or under the water, really) about it!!!! I’m yet to go on my first snorkeling and I hope I’ll get to do it soon.
    Splash is absolutely adorable. Indeed so friendly to let him swim with you…

  10. These turtles are gigantic! Can you see them on the beach? I totally agree to follow a certified instructor for snorkeling, because I always hear accidents in the tourist area caused by some non-qualified instructors or facilities.

    • More than the accidents, their equipment and techniques are definitely good for a beginner. As for the turtles, yes, you can see a few on the beaches, I saw them at Hikkaduwa though.

  11. Wow Amiji ! I knew Sri Lanka was a beautiful country, didn’t know the underwater life was too lively here and one had options to do such activities. Thanks for the informative post.


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