Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill © C Kitchin
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey © G de Silva WijeyeratneSri Lanka Blue Magpie © Tony SawbridgeSri Lanka Junglefowl © J ThomasSerendib Scops Owl © C KitchinLeopard © M O'DellToque Macaque © J Thomas

Sri Lanka’s Endemic Birds, Mammals and more! (14 days) SLK113

Tour ref. no. SLK113
Duration: 12 nights (14 days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Colombo – Kithulgala – Sinharaja – Udawalawe NP – Yala NP – Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains – Kandy – Colombo
  • All of Sri Lanka’s 33 endemic birds, including Serendib Scops Owl and great mammals
  • Highland endemics including a different race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and sightings of Sri Lanka White-eye
  • Blue-shouldered specials – the stunning Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Whistling Thrush
  • Bush-warbler
  • Leopards at Yala National Park – high population density offers top chance of sighting(s)
  • Herds of Asian Elephants at Udawalawe’s watering holes
  • Chance sightings of Rusty-spotted, Fishing and Jungle Cats – can prove a challenge

Introduction

Our target – Sri Lanka’s endemic birds – all 33 of them – and some great mammals too! Serendib Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Layard’s Parakeet and the skulking Sri Lanka Thrush are all seen at Sinharaja. In the highlands around Horton Plains and Nuwara Eliya your experienced guide knows where to search for Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, White-eye and other special hill species including a different race of the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey.

Enjoy Udawalawe’s herds of Asian Elephants.  Then to Yala – famous for Leopard sightings. Expect magnificent White-bellied Sea and Grey-headed Fish Eagles as well as stunning Chestnut-headed and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.

Let us know if you’d like to see Blue Whales and we can fix this too by adding a couple of nights at Mirissa (Jan – March are the best months)

 

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 – Kitulgala

Meals: Dinner

Arrive Colombo (likely to be early afternoon).  Your Sri Lankan guide will be there to meet you and will remain with you till you arrive back in Colombo. 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 Kitulgala, an area famous as the scene for the 1957 award-winning film The Bridge over the River Kwai.

For birders and naturalists it is has biodiversity by the bucketful!  Many endemic birds are seen here including the comical, colourful Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot and less colourful, skulking Green-billed Coucal.  Here you can also see the rare Serendib Scops Owl, only seen for the first time in 2001.

Have dinner and relax for the evening.

Day 3: Kitulgala

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

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

Day 4: Kitulgala - 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.  Note: You can see many Sri Lankan endemics outside of Sinharaja National Park and along the track which leads to the main 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 consider having lunch (payable directly) at Martins Lodge which is just outside the entrance in ideal birding habitat.  There is shelter here if the weather is inclement.  You’ll stay somewhere different, at Rock View Motel.

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 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 (payable directly) at Martin’s Lodge with more birding from the dining area where you’ll benefit from shelter if there is some tropical rain.

Night at Rock View Motel.

Day 6: Sinharaja

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Spend the whole day birding today.  We have factored in another visit inside Sinharaja National Park, with a half day to explore down the track or in other local habitats.  Chestnut-backed Owlet occurs here and those interested in invertebrates may enjoy the giant millipedes!  At some point today you’ll visit a local garden to search for Sri Lanka Spurfowl

Night at Rock View Motel

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 rather pretty and widespread 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 - Tissamaharama (Tissa)

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Today you’ll leave after breakfast and drive (2 ½ hours) to Tissa.  If time permits, which it should, you’ll enjoy some birding at local tanks (wetlands), 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 jeep safari in Yala National Park.

The Park is mainly semi-arid thorny-scrub, with pockets of fairly dense forest, moist monsoon forests, 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 Asian Elephant, Leopard and 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 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 including Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Pin-tailed Snipe.

Return to your hotel/lodge.

Day 9: Yala National Park, near Tissa

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Enjoy a full day jeep safari inside Yala National Park, accompanied by your guide.   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!

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 Woodpigeon, 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 pene plains (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 the highland endemics.  The montane race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is often seen on the journey here.  Endemic birds 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.  The plan will be to return for lunch in Nuwara Eliya (payable directly).  Enjoy more birding in the afternoon and 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 km to the west of the city.  Species to look out for here include Yellow-fronted Barbet and Crimson-fronted Barbet.  Yellow-browed Bulbul is also likely along with White-rumped  and Scaly-breasted Munias.  For anyone interested in culture if time permits you could visit Temple of the Tooth and a dance performance in Kandy (entrance to both would be on direct payment).

Day 13: Kandy - Colombo

Meals: Breakfast and dinner

Spend the morning birding around Kandy.  You will have an option to visit Udawatta Kelle Forest Reserve (as this is optional the entrance fee of approx. $6 will be payable directly).  Later in the morning or at a time to be decided with your guide, 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.  You’ll say goodbye to your guide this evening and relax for your final night in Sri Lanka.

Day 14: Colombo

Meals: Breakfast

Enjoy breakfast (served from 0700 hours).  We have arranged for a transfer to take you from your hotel 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: this tour can be easily extended. From Kandy you could visit other cultural sites including Sigiriya Rock World Heritage Site and an excellent area for birds – see SLK114 for details.  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) $2100
4 people travelling together (on a twin share basis) $1800
Single room supplement approximately $495 (to be confirmed)

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 Kithulgala Rest House or Plantation Hotel, Standard Room 2
Sinharaja Rock View Motel, Standard Room 3
Udawalawe The Grand, Deluxe Room  1
Tissa Hibiscus Garden, Standard Room 2
Nuwara Eliya Leisure Village Hotel  or Lake View Hotel, Standard Room  2
Kandy Hotel Thilanka, Standard Room 1
Colombo Tamarind Tree Hotel, Standard Cottage  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 Day 2 to Day 13 and a transfer to the airport on Day 14
  • All mentioned transfers by air-conditioned vehicle
  • Entrances to the National Parks and gardens mentioned in the itinerary and a visit to a local property to see Sri Lanka Spurfowl
  • Local guide at Udawalawe National Park and experienced tracker to search for Serendib Scops Owl and Sri Lanka Thrush inside Sinharaja
  • Exclusive jeep safaris to the National Parks
  • All currently applicable taxes

Price excludes

  • Any international airfare
  • Meals not specified
  • 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.

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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