Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Header-Blue-Whale-Tony-Sawbridge
Blue Whale off Mirissa © Tony SawbridgeSri Lanka Blue Magpie © Tony SawbridgeAsian Elephant Yala © Tony SawbridgeOriental Dwarf Kingfisher © I NewtonGreen Bee-eater © M O'DellLeopard © M O'Dell

Sri Lanka – Whales, Leopards & Turtles (15 days) SLK110

Tour ref. no. SLK110
Duration: 13 nights (15 days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Colombo – Mirissa – Tangalle – Bundala – Yala – Udawalawe – Sinharaja – Colombo
  • Thrilling sightings of Blue Whale, Manta Ray and Spinner Dolphin off Mirissa
  • Watch striking Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher at Sinharaja
  • Enjoy the herds of Asian Elephants at Udawalawe National Park
  • Search for Serendib Scops Owl, first seen as recently as 2001!
  • Jeep safaris at Yala offer excellent chance of Leopard and three Bee-eater species
  • Visit a turtle egg-laying beach or unwind by the sea or pool side – itinerary to suit you

Introduction

Looking for the perfect mix of nature watching and relaxation?   Sri Lanka, ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’, may well be your destination of choice.  Begin with whale-watching expeditions off Mirissa (South coast) where at peak times you are almost guaranteed to see Blue Whale; turtles and Bridled Tern are also possible.  Interested in architecture? Then we’ll take you to Galle World Heritage Site,  or you can spend time at Hiyare Forest where colourful endemic birds include Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Yellow-fronted Barbet and Black-capped Bulbul.

Bundala is packed with wildlife such as majestic White-bellied Sea Eagles prominent in the sky and Star Tortoise in the dry areas.  Yala, famous for Leopards, is home to a plethora of fauna including Sri Lanka Junglefowl (the island’s national bird), flocks of Orange-breasted and Sri Lanka Green Pigeons. Finish this tour in verdant tropical forest at Sinharaja, home to other sought-after endemics – Layard’s Parakeet, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Spurfowl and many more.

 

Itinerary and price

Day 1: Flight to be organised by you

For help with your flight arrangements and to receive a no obligation quote, you can complete the enquiry form on our website or call 0800 280 8947 to speak to a flight advisor at StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of the Flight Centre Travel Group, a leading retailer of airfares and worldwide flights.

Day 2: Colombo – Mirissa

Meals: Dinner

Arrive Colombo (likely to be early afternoon).  Your Sri Lankan guide will be there to meet you and will remain with you throughout the tour. From here you will head south towards Mirissa (110 kms/ 3 – 3 ½ hours). Arrive Mirissa and check in to your hotel for two nights. Have dinner and relax for the evening.

Day 3: Mirissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

This morning you will leave the hotel at 0615 hours to arrive at the pier at 0645 hours.  Packed breakfast will be served on the boat.  Expect the excursion by whale-watching vessel in search of Blue Whales to last between 3 – 4 hours, but please bear in mind this can be cut short due to weather conditions.  Very occasionally, if the sea is too rough, the excursion can be cancelled for safety reasons.  During the peak time for whale watching (December to March inclusive) the sea conditions are usually perfect. You will be provided with a lifejacket, please ensure you wear it and behave responsibly whilst aboard.  After the boat trip, return to the hotel and retire for a leisurely lunch (on direct payment). There are no boat trips in the afternoon as outings then are less productive. At the right time of year you have a very high chance of seeing Blue Whale off Mirissa and other species seen include Spinner Dolphins, Manta Rays, Flying Fish and turtles if you are lucky.

In the afternoon your guide will take you to Hiyare Forest within Kottawa-Kohombala Forest Reserve (journey time approx. 1 ¼ hours each way) where you will explore on foot.  Admission may be till about 1700 hours, but then you can explore along the roadside in lush forest habitat.  Alternatively you may visit Galle World Heritage Site (journey time approx. 40 minutes each way), where at the end of the day it is sometimes possible to see turtles coming to feed on seaweed by the shore below you.  Return to your resort and relax for the evening.

Day 4: Mirissa - Tangalle

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Morning excursion (with packed breakfast) by whale-watching vessel in search of Blue Whales. Return to the hotel to freshen up, have a quick lunch (on direct payment), then drive to Tangalle (2 – 2 ½ hours depending on stops). Arrive Tangalle and check in at your hotel. Note: This is a lovely hotel right on the beach, so you may wish to get there earlier and relax in the environs where you’ll see some birds or just enjoy the beach and pool.  In the evening visit the Rekawa Beach Turtle Conservation Project (entrance fee included, but additional donations are welcome) – journey time is 40 minutes each way, so expect a late night.

Day 5: Tangalle - Bundala - Tissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today have breakfast at your hotel at 0700 hours and aim to leave promptly at 0730 hours to visit Kalametiya wetland which is on the way to Bundala.  Birdwatching is better early in the morning before the heat of the day kicks in.  You’ll have lunch out today (payable directly) and your guide can help you to decide where to have a meal.

The drive from Kalametiya to Bundala will take around 1 1/2  or so, depending on stops and time taken for lunch.  Arrive Bundala National Park and enjoy an afternoon jeep safari inside the National Park.

Bundala National Park is a wetland of international importance for migratory waterfowl, mainly consisting of lagoons and dry thorny scrubland. Migratory flocks of over 1,000 Greater Flamingo are just one of many highlights.  Other species include Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Great Stone-Curlew, Yellow Bittern, Malabar Pied Hornbill and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.

Estuarine and Marsh Crocodiles occur here and you will look for them along the sides of the park’s lagoons and water courses.  The beach off Bundala is a breeding area for all five species of globally threatened Sea Turtles which visit Sri Lanka (Green, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles).  Four of them (excluding Hawksbill) lay their eggs on the coast of the Park between October and January.

There are better places to see Asian Elephant, but they do occur here along with Toque Macaque, White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse deer), Indian Muntjac and Black-naped Hare.  Keep your eyes open and you might see a Star Tortoise too!

After the jeep safari you’ll continue on to Tissa, check in at your hotel/resort and relax for the the remainder of the evening.

Day 6: Yala National Park

Meals: Breakfast, basic curry lunch and dinner.

Today enjoy a full day safari inside Yala.  Entry is allowed around 0600 to 0630 hours and all jeeps must exit the Park according to local rules at the time with last exit currently being 1800 hours.

 

The Park is mainly semi-arid thorny-scrub, with pockets of fairly dense forest, moist monsoon forest, freshwater and marine habitats. Yala also has a few patches of mangrove vegetation along the coastal lagoons. A large number of important cultural ruins bear testament to earlier civilisations, but most people visit Yala for its wonderful wildlife and excellent opportunities to see some great mammals.  It is reputed to have one of the highest densities of Leopard in the world and is of course home to Asian Elephant. With luck you will also see Leopard, Wild Water Buffalo, Toque Macaque and Tufted Grey Langur.  Ruddy Mongoose, Black-naped Hare and Wild Boar are also very likely to be encountered.  Other species present but more difficult to see include Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Sloth Bear, Golden Jackal, Fishing Cat and Rusty-spotted Cat.

Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Of 215 bird species in the National Park some are endemic to Sri Lanka, including Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Swallow, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul and Brown-capped Babbler. Other species include Blue-faced and Sirkeer Malkohas, Orange-breasted and Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, Crested Treeswift, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Indian Pitta, Chestnut-headed, Blue-tailed and Green Bee-eaters.   Many species of common waterbird inhabit Yala’s wetlands including Great White and Spot-billed Pelicans, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant and a wide range of other storks, egrets, herons and waders including Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Pin-tailed Snipe.

Day 7: Debarawewa Tank and Yala National Park, near Tissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Enjoy the morning birdwatching at Debarawewa Tank.  It’s a lovely wetland packed full of waterbirds and a good place to look for Black Bittern and even Watercock.  It is possible to spend several hours here.  Return to your hotel/resort  for lunch (payable directly) and prepare to leave mid-afternoon for your first safari drive inside the famous Yala National Park.

Day 8: Yala National Park

Meals: Breakfast, basic lunch and dinner

Enjoy another full day safari inside Yala National Park on both days accompanied by your guide.  Return to your hotel/resort for lunch (payable directly). Access is restricted to the jeeps only. Walking is not permitted inside the park, except for designated picnic/toilet stops, including one by the beach and another by the river.  While at the river make sure you don’t leave your bags unattended as the Toque Macaques are likely to ransack them! If you’d prefer a whole day inside Yala let us know at the time of booking and we can arrange it.

Day 9: Yala National Park

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today enjoy a morning jeep safari inside the Park.  Expect to leave at 0500 hours with a packed breakfast for a one hour driver to Lunugamvehera National Park (block 5 of Yala).  The drive to this entrance gate feels like a safari in itself and there is a chance of seeing some mammals on the way.  The safari times are from 0600 hours to 1000 hours.  Lunch today will be at your hotel and payable directly.  There will be time in the afternoon to relax and have some time on your own, or with your guide.  In the afternoon you will visit another local reservoir (tank) and return to your hotel for a final night.

Day 10: Yala National Park – Udawalawe National Park

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

First thing this morning (early) you’ll have the chance to explore with your guide one of the local tanks (wetlands). Then set off mid-morning to Udawalawe National Park (approx. 2 hours). Arrive Udawalawe and check in at your hotel.

Enjoy an afternoon jeep safari at Udawalawe National Park.

The Park is an excellent location for bird and mammal watching. It is home to several endemics including Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Sri Lanka Junglefowl.  Other species to look out for include White-bellied Sea Eagle, Black Eagle, Barred Buttonquail, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Blue-faced Malkoha, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, Marshall’s Iora and Black-headed Munia.   Mammal sightings here can include Asian Elephant, Wild Boar and three species of Mongoose.  Golden Palm Civet, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Asian Palm Civet, White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse deer) are present too but  more difficult to see.

Return to your hotel and relax.

Day 11: Udawalawe National Park

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

After breakfast (served from 0630 – 1000 hours) enjoy a morning and afternoon jeep safari inside Udawalawe National Park, returning for lunch (served from 1230 – 1500 hours and payable directly).  Alternatively you could take a full day safari inside the park and your hotel will provide you with a packed lunch (order the night before) at a cost of approx. $5 per person.  Just advise us as to which safari option you would prefer at the time of booking.  Night at your hotel.

Day 12: Udawalawe National Park – Sinharaja National Park

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Spend the early morning birding around the hotel, then after breakfast drive to Sinharaja National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Nature Reserve.  You should reach the first visitor centre in approx. 3 hours and your guide must acquire your permits from here.  The entrance to Sinharaja is another 30 – 40 minutes up a bumpy track.  Note: You can see several of the target Sri Lankan endemics in excellent habitats outside of the National Park and in village areas to today you will focus on the areas outside of the National Park.

One of the most interesting and colourful spectacles Sinharaja has to offer is the mixed species flocks of foraging birds, a phenomenon commonly found in rainforests.  Studies of many mixed flocks revealed that some were made up of over 40 species including 12 endemics. Almost 95% of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds occur at Sinharaja and these include Serendib Scops Owl, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Layard’s Parakeet, Green–billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Black-capped Bulbul, Sri Lanka Drongo, Orange-billed Babbler, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Thrush, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, White-faced Starling and Sri Lanka Swallow. However, birding here can be challenging, as with many dense forest habitats.

A high percentage of Sri Lanka’s endemic mammals occur here too and these include Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Toque Macaque and Layard’s (Flame-striped) Jungle Squirrel to name a few.  As with birding, mammal watching in dense forest can be equally if not more challenging.

Day 13: Sinharaja

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

You’ll be able to enter Sinharaja Forest Reserve once today.  You may discuss with your guide about taking lunch (payable directly) at Martin’s Lodge near the entrance gate and then in the afternoon enjoy the wealth of birds to be seen along the track down the hill.  Endemic species along the track may include Green–billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Red-faced Malkoha, Layard’s Parakeet, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon and you may even see Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher if you are lucky!

Day 14: Sinharaja - Colombo

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Enjoy local birding this morning outside of Sinharaja Forest with a focus on Green-billed Coucal and Sri Lanka Spurfowl if you have not already seen these species.  Depart around 1100 hours to reach your hotel late afternoon/early evening. Expect the journey to take approx. 5 hours + a stop for lunch.

Day 15: Colombo

Meals: Breakfast (served from 0700 hours)

Today we have included a transfer to the airport to connect with your flight, likely to depart early afternoon. Note: The airport has a wide range of reasonably priced souvenirs to purchase from several stalls and most will take US$ or Sri Lankan Rupees.  Be prepared to discuss the prices!

Tour ends

Price per person valid until March 2018:

2 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2800
4 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2325
Single room supplement TBC

Please note: There is a supplement for the Christmas/New Year period and we can supply this on request.

 

 

Price is based on the following hotels:

Place Hotel name No. of nights
Mirissa Insight Resort, Deluxe Room 2
Tangalle Turtle Bay Resort, Standard Room 1
Yala (Tissa) River Face Inn, Standard Room  5
Udawalawe The Grand, Deluxe Room  2
Sinharaja Rock View Motel Standard Room  2
Colombo Tamarind Tree, Standard Room  1

Price includes

  • Accommodation in the above mentioned hotels or similar with breakfast & dinner
  • Services of an accompanying wildlife guide / naturalist from Colombo to Colombo
  • Air-conditioned vehicle for all transfers, drives & sightseeing as mentioned in the above itinerary
  • Entrances to the National Parks mentioned as per the above itinerary
  • Tracker for inside Yala National Park, Udawalawe National Park and experienced bird tracker to search for Serendib Scops Owl and Sri Lanka Thrush inside Sinharaja
  • Whale watching excursions in Mirissa as per the above itinerary
  • ½ day visit to Galle OR a ½ day visit to Hiyare Forest
  • Exclusive jeep safaris to the National Parks as mentioned in the above itinerary.
  • All current Govt. applicable taxes

Price excludes

  • Any International airfare to/from Sri Lanka
  • Meals not specified
  • Camera fee wherever levied
  • Any additional taxes levied by the Government of Sri Lanka on the tourism sector in future
  • Any expenses of personal nature such as hard/soft drinks, laundry, phone/fax calls, tips etc.
  • Any item not mentioned in the price includes section
  • Any increase in the entrance fee to the National park. The price is based on the currently applicable entrance fee
  • Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary on account of flight cancellation due to bad weather, ill health, roadblocks and/or any factors beyond control.

 

How to book

The booking of this itinerary is with Wild About Travel Limited and our booking terms and conditions apply. In order to protect your payments we operate a trust account in accordance with the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

Please contact Jo Thomas at Wild About Travel (jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk) / 01480-370593 to register your interest and request a booking form.

To confirm your booking please complete the booking form and send a 25% deposit by £ sterling cheque * payable to Wild About Travel Trust to the Wild About Travel Office, 25 Sapley Road, Hartford, Huntingdon, Cambs PE29 1YG. The balance payment would be due 40 - 60 days (to be confirmed at the time of booking) prior to your travel dates.

* Note: Where a price is given in another currency you can pay in £ sterling. We will use the Lloyds Bank exchange rate at the time of making the deposit payment and the balance payment to convert the figure to £. If you would prefer to make a payment by internet banking please let us know and we can supply you with the bank details.

Flights

We can advise on appropriate flights and timings that you may wish to book, but we do not organise or arrange flights on our customers’ behalf. You will need to make your own flight arrangements directly with a flight retailer or the airline concerned; we recommend StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of Flight Centre Travel Group. They can be contacted by completing the online enquiry form or you can call 0800 280 8947 to speak to one of their flight advisors.

For any help or advice please call or email Wild About Travel and we would be happy to assist.
Tel: +44 (0)1480 370593 Mobile: +44 (0)7817 574235
Email: jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk
Wild About Travel Limited is a company registered in England and Wales.
Reg. no. 5522066. Registered Office: 25 Sapley Road, Hartford, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 1YG, UK

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