Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher © I Newton
Red-faced Malkoha © Tony SawbridgeSri Lanka Frogmouth male and female © C KitchinSri Lanka Blue Magpie © Tony SawbridgeKashmir Flycatcher © Tony SawbridgeSri Lanka Spurfowl © D BlakeleyChestnut-headed Bee-eaters © M O'Dell

Sri Lanka’s Brilliant Birds (16 days) SLK114

Tour ref. no. SLK114
Duration: 14 nights (16 days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Colombo – Kithulgala – Sinharaja – Udawalawe NP – Yala NP – Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains – Kandy – Sigiriya – Colombo
  • Sri Lanka Junglefowl – the island’s National Bird and one of 33 endemics!
  • Endemic Babblers – Brown-capped, Orange-billed, Sri Lanka Scimitar and Ashy-headed Laughingthrush
  • Early morning at Horton Plains for Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Dull-blue Flycatcher and more
  • Chestnut-backed Owlet and Serendib Scops Owl at Sinharaja and Kithulgala
  • Birders love Barbets – both Yellow-fronted and Crimson-fronted Barbets are endemic
  • Yala – White-bellied Sea Eagle and Grey-headed Fish Eagle and famous for Leopard
  • Good birding around Sigiriya Rock Fortress as well as Grey Slender Loris


All of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds are likely on this tour – that’s 33 depending on which list you work from!

Explore Kithulgala with chance of numerous endemics – the camouflaged Serendib Scops Owl and Chestnut-backed Owlet, comical Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, stocky Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and the island’s very vocal National Bird Sri Lanka Junglefowl as well as many more species.

Lush lowland rain forests of Sinharaja are draped in epiphytes and showcase wonderful pitcher plants.  This magical place offers another chance to catch up with most endemic species.  Striking Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Red-faced Malkoha and Layard’s Parakeet, roving flocks of Orange-billed Babblers and Ashy-headed Laughingthrushes all share their varied forests with Spot-winged Thrush, White-faced Starling, Legge’s Flowerpecker and the rather elusive Sri Lanka Thrush.

Moving on to Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains in search of the highland endemics, your guide will seek out Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Bush-warbler, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and Yellow-browed Bulbul.

Yala has endemics, too, but there’s also stunning Chestnut-headed, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, White-browed Fantails and, of course, a sighting of Leopard is very likely.   Both at Yala and Udawalawe you can also see magnificent White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite and the widespread Blue-faced Malkoha and Indian Pitta.

In the vicinity of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a World Heritage Site,  more endemics await you, but equally enjoyable are views of Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbirds and a chance of the nocturnal Grey Slender Loris.

If you’d like to include Blue Whale watching, just let us know and we can price it for you.


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 – Kithulgala

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 the airport you’ll drive (approx. 3 hours) to Kithulgala.  Check in at your lodge/hotel and with any time remaining you’ll explore the tranquil forests and Kelani river at Kithulgala, an area famous as the scene for the 1957 award-winning film The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

For birders and naturalists this area has biodiversity by the bucketful!  Many endemic birds are seen here including the comical, colourful Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, the skulking Green-billed Coucal and the rare Serendib Scops Owl, first recorded as recently as 2001.

Have dinner and relax for the evening.

Day 3: Kithulgala

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Take advantage of the best hours for birding, nice and early in the morning.  Other endemics hto be found include Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Black-throated Munia and Spot-winged Thrush along with many more exciting species such as Malabar Trogon, Crimson-backed Flameback, Lesser Hill Myna, Crested Treeswift and Mountain Hawk Eagle.  Lunch (either hot or packed) will be provided.  You’ll have a hot or packed lunch (payable directly), depending on the birding and the search for endemics will continue in the afternoon.  Return to your hotel/lodge for dinner and relax for the evening.

Day 4: Kithulgala - Sinharaja

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.  The itinerary is priced for a stay at Martin’s Lodge, superbly located on the edge of the rainforest habitat close to the entrance.  Note: Please expect basic facilities as we are staying here because of the location rather than the comfort levels.  If basic accommodation doesn’t appeal, speak to us and we can suggest and book an alternative, but expect to either walk up the uneven track or be prepared for a 30 – 40 minute bumpy journey by 4WD to reach the entrance each time.  Note: You can see some of the Sri Lankan endemics as you walk up the track to Martin’s Lodge and the National Park entrance.  It is difficult to predict the weather here, so we will factor in one entrance fee for this afternoon and two for tomorrow.  The entrance fee is payable each time you go into the Park and many will find it beneficial to return to Martin’s Lodge for lunch (payable directly), especially if the weather is inclement.  Birding is great around the lodge too!

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 such 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 5: Sinharaja

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

You’ll be able to enter Sinharaja Forest Reserve twice today, or, depending on the success of yesterday afternoon and this morning, you may prefer to walk down to the end of the track towards the visitor centre where birding can be extremely productive.  Endemic species 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! Have lunch at Martin’s Lodge (payable directly) with more birding from the dining area where you’ll benefit from shelter if there is some tropical rain.

Night at Martin’s Lodge.

Day 6: Sinharaja

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Spend the whole day birding.  We have factored in another visit inside Sinharaja National Park, with a half day to explore down the track from Martin’s Lodge.  Chestnut-backed Owlet occurs here and those interested in invertebrates may enjoy the giant millipedes!

Night at Martin’s Lodge

Day 7: Sinharaja - Udawalawe

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

You can do some early morning birding outside of Sinharaja National Park before commencing the journey to Udawalawe (approx. 3 – 3 ½ hours).  Check in at your hotel and in the afternoon take the short drive to reach Udawalawe National Park and enjoy a jeep safari.  Many endemics occur here, though several are quite tricky to see as you are birding from the jeep most of the time.  Crested Hawk Eagles sit in prominent trees – seemingly everywhere – and the Park is home to several pairs of White-bellied Sea Eagle, another species easily seen here.  The arid scrubland is home to Black-headed Munia, Blue-faced Malkoha, Marshall’s Iora, Indian Pitta, Jerdon’s Bushlark, Malabar Pied Hornbill and the widespread and rather pretty Orange-breasted Green Pigeon.  While taking in the birdlife you will most certainly encounter herds of Asian Elephant and perhaps Golden Jackal, Wild Boar and a mongoose or two.  Golden Palm Civet, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Asian Palm Civet, White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse deer) are all present but more difficult to see.  Return to your hotel for a one night stay.

Day 8: Udawalawe - Yala, near Tissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today you’ll leave after breakfast and drive (2 ½ hours) to the town of Tissamaharama (Tissa for short), near Yala.  There will be time to enjoy birding at local tanks (wetlands) near Tissa, where species may include Watercock, Black and Yellow Bitterns, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Baya Weaver, herons, storks and egrets.  Check in at your hotel and in the afternoon prepare for your first of three jeep safaris in Yala National Park.

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 testimony 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 see wild Water Buffalo, Toque Macaque and Tufted Grey Langur as well as Asian Elephant and Leopard.  Ruddy Mongoose, Black-naped Hare and Wild Boar are also very likely to be encountered; more difficult to see are 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 the 215 bird species recorded, some are endemic to Sri Lanka and these include 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 waterbirds 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 such as Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Pin-tailed Snipe.

Return to your hotel/lodge.

Day 9: Yala National Park, near Tissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Enjoy morning and afternoon safaris inside Yala National Park on both days accompanied by your guide.  Return to your hotel/lodge for lunch.  Note: a full day safari option (usually from 0545 hours till around 1730 – 1800 hours) is available but it makes for a very long day and you would need to order a packed lunch (payable directly)  Access is restricted to the jeeps only. Walking is not permitted inside the park, except for designated picnic spots, 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.  Note: this evening your guide will take you to one or more of the local tanks (wetlands) to search for Fishing and/or Rusty-spotted Cat.

Day 10: Yala - Nuwara Eliya

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

After breakfast you will drive to Nuwara Eliya.  There are lots of excellent birding sites in the vicinity including Victoria Park where you may see Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush and Indian Blue Robin, to name just a few of the species.  There are other places to check for the endemics too, including waterfalls and a golf course!  Today locally you should also see Yellow-eared Bulbul and Orange-billed Babbler.

Day 11: Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains - Nuwara Eliya

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Located on the highest of three peneplains (horizontal lands formed by erosion to create an area resembling a plain) the not-to-be-missed Horton Plains National Park is another great place to look for highland endemics and the montane race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is often seen on the journey.  Endemic birds in the Park include Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Thrush, Dark-fronted Babbler and Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush which is best looked for at dawn and dusk.  Other species include Hill Swallow.  Return to your hotel for a second night.

Day 12: Nuwara Eliya - Kandy

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today you’ll drive (3 hours) to Kandy.  During your brief stay you’ll visit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradeniya, a few kms to the west of the city.  Species to look out for include both Yellow-fronted and Crimson-fronted Barbets.  Yellow-browed Bulbul is also likely along with White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias.  For anyone interested in culture, and if time permits, you could visit the Temple of the Tooth and watch a dance performance in Kandy (entrance to both would be on direct payment).

Day 13: Kandy - Sigiriya

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today you’ll drive to Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the North Central Province.  This World Heritage Site offers great birding (Jerdon’s Nightjar can be seen in the public areas) along with culture and even some mammal-watching if you are lucky as Grey Slender Loris occurs here.  Other species include Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Crimson-backed Flameback and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon.  Check in at your lodge/hotel, have dinner and then venture out in search of nocturnal species.

Day 14: Sigiriya

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Spend another enjoyable day locally and you’ll see plenty more including Sri Lanka Swallow, Dark-fronted Babbler, White-naped Woodpecker, Common Iora, Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, White-browed Bulbul, White-rumped Shama, Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbirds.

Day 15: Sigiriya - Colombo

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today you’ll start your journey back towards Colombo.  You’ll enjoy birding on the way as directed by your guide.  The drive should take around 4 ½ hours and the plan will be to reach your hotel near the airport around 1700 hours.  Relax for your final evening.

Day 16: Colombo

Meals: Breakfast

Enjoy breakfast (served from 0700 hours), then your guide will take you to the airport for your international flight home.  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

Note: A shortened version of this tour is SLK111 and SLK113.  Alternatively you could include Whale Watching from Mirissa.  Please email us for details.

Price per person for standard hotels option:

2 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2515
3 people travelling together $2285
4 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2165
Single room supplement $575

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

Standard price is based on the following hotels:

Place Hotel name No. of nights
Kithulgala Sisira River Lounge or Plantation Hotel, Standard Room 2
Sinharaja Martin’s Lodge, Standard Room 3
Udawalawe The Grand, Deluxe Room  1
Yala Hibiscus Garden, Standard Room 2
Nuwara Eliya Royal Hills, Superior Room  2
Kandy Hotel Thilanka, Standard Room 1
Sigiriya Sigiriya Village, Standard Room 2
Colombo Gateway Hotel, Standard Room  1

Price per person for deluxe hotels option:

2 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2670
3 people travelling together $2465
4 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $2350
Single room supplement $705

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

Supplement for staying at Cinnamon Wild if you prefer can be supplied.

Deluxe price is based on the following hotels:

Place Hotel name No. of nights
Kithulgala Plantation Hotel, Standard Room 2
Sinharaja Blue Magpie Lodge, Standard Room 3
Udawalawe The Grand, Super Deluxe Room  1
Yala Kithala Resort, Superior New Wing 2
Nuwara Eliya Royal Hills, Deluxe Room  2
Kandy Cinnamon Citadel, Standard Room 1
Sigiriya Sigiriya Village 2
Colombo Gateway Hotel, Superior Room  1

Price includes

  • Accommodation in the above mentioned hotels with meals as listed (breakfast and dinner)
  • Services of an accompanying birding driver/guide from Colombo to Colombo
  • All mentioned transfers by air-conditioned vehicle
  • Entrances to the National Parks, Sanctuaries, Gardens and Sigiriya Rock Fortress mentioned in the itinerary
  • Three half day jeep safaris inside Yala National Park with local tracker/guide
  • One half day jeep safari inside Udawalawe National Park with a local tracker
  • An experienced tracker to search for Serendib Scops Owl and Sri Lanka Thrush inside Sinharaja with five entries per person included in the price
  • Night drive at the end of Day 9 with your driver/guide
  • All jeep safaris to the National Parks will be exclusive
  • All currently applicable taxes

Price excludes

  • Any international airfare
  • Lunch and any meals not listed
  • Tourist visa and travel insurance
  • Camera fee
  • Any additional taxes levied 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 National Parks or Sanctuaries in the future. The price is based on the current entrance fee
  • Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary/stay 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.


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