Amazing cultural treasures and incredible wildlife, including memorable whale and bird watching
This suggested itinerary for a tailor-made holiday on the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka, incorporates some of its amazing cultural treasures with incredible wildlife, including memorable whale and bird watching experiences.
Well known for its stunning Buddhist temples, gorgeous coastline and highland tea estates, Sri Lanka is also a perfect destination for wildlife spotting. This itinerary takes in several reserves and national parks, where mammals such as leopard, elephant, sloth bear, giant flying squirrel, wild boar, deer and various monkeys can be found. Reptiles include crocodiles, snakes, monitor lizards and 16 endemic amphibians. There are a myriad of bird species to discover in Sri Lanka, including 33 endemic species and the itinerary also includes a beach stay, from which whale and dolphin watching boat tours can be done.
Combine all this with extremely knowledgeable guides, friendly smiling people, wonderful food and an interesting diverse culture and you have the perfect recipe for a truly special holiday. We can design an itinerary at a pace that would exactly suit your requirements, but hopefully this suggested itinerary will show you a little of what is possible.
Depart UK for direct overnight flight to Sri Lanka.
You will be met and assisted on arrival at the airport at around midday and will then proceed to Negombo, a journey of about 30 minutes. The after-noon will be free to relax and acclimatize by the pool or on the beach.
After breakfast proceed to Kandy for two nights. This usually takes 3 hours, but en-route you can visit the Millennium Elephant Foundation, where you will have the opportunity to interact with the rescued elephants and even bathe them if desired. Nestled in lush green hills and built around a scenic lake, the Royal City of Kandy, at 500metres above sea level, is famed for its distinctive architecture, music, dance and art.
Strolling around the lake or exploring the numerous temples that dot the nearby hills is a great way to get a feel for this historic city, but this morning, you will visit Temple of the Tooth, the showpiece of the city. Then in the afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, which contains a bewildering array of local and foreign species set in a tranquil site, which is also excellent for bird watching.
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to the Peradeniya Railway Station for the stunning journey to Nanu Oya by train. The views of mist-shrouded mountains, rolling tea plantations, cascading waterfalls and quaint hill-top villages on this memorable journey are breath taking. Your driver/guide will be waiting to collect you from the Nanu Oya Railway Station and he will take you on to Nuwara Eliya, at the heart of the southern hill and tea plantation country and Sri Lanka’s highest town, for 3 nights.
An early start this morning to visit the Horton Plains National Park, where you will see cloud forests and rare montane fauna, which can include the endemic Rhino-horned Lizard, which was featured in Charles Darwin’s monumental work on evolution, Bear Monkey, Giant Squirrel and herds of Sambar deer. Walk through the grasslands and cloud forests to a popular viewpoint know as World’s End, where the cliff plunges dramatically for nearly 1000 metres, offering wonderful views to the south. The bird watching here is excellent and you can look for endemic birds, such as Yellow-eared Bulbul and Sri Lanka Hill White-eye and Dull-blue Flycatcher.
Today you will travel south to your hotel near Yala National Park, which is renowned for the variety of its wildlife and its fine coastline, for 3 nights. The journey will take about 5 hours, but it is a very scenic drive via Ella, passing pine forests, plunging ravines, waterfalls and tea estates on the way.
Later in the afternoon, you will do a jeep safari in the Yala National Park in search of leopard, Sloth bear and elephant. Yala has one of the highest densities of leopards anywhere in the world. The lack of other large carnivores means that the leopard is the top predator and adults and cubs are remarkably relaxed during the day, offering great opportunities for viewing and photography. Yala is also possibly the best place in Asia for sighting the shy and usually nocturnal Sloth bear, as well boasting over 120 species of birds. The coastline forms a major nesting ground for marine turtles.
An early start this morning, for another safari of the Yala National Park by jeep. The rest of the day will be at leisure.
Another early morning, this time you will go on safari by jeep to the Bundala National Park, which is famous for the diversity and profusion of aquatic birdlife. This is an important wetland sanctuary for migratory shore-birds including the Greater Flamingo and some of the 150 bird species listed in the park, include the rare Black-necked stork and Great thick-knee. Numerous mammals are also found in this park, including elephant, leopard and several species of deer.
After breakfast, you will travel along the south coast for approximately two and a half hours to your hotel on the South coast, perhaps at Tangalle, where you will stay for 3 nights.
This morning, proceed along the coast to Mirissa and go on a half day whale watching expedition by boat. Drinks and snacks will be provided on the boat. Sri Lanka is the best place in the world to spot both Blue Whale and super-pods of Sperm Whales and this can be done from Mirissa from December to mid-April, with the peak time being March and April.
A free day at leisure to enjoy the beach and surroundings.
After breakfast, travel on to the Sinharaja Rainforest, a journey of about one and a half hours. In the afternoon, there will be the first opportunity for birding at Sinharaja, which was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1989 and is home to many endemic flora and fauna. According to a study of mixed species bird flocks, on average 42 individual birds occur in the flocks here, which makes it the world’s largest mixed species bird flock. Birding highlights include Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Legge’s Flowerpecker, White-faced Starling and Scaly Thrush.
Another full day of birding at Sinharaja Rainforest.
A morning departure for Katunayake, which will take approximately three and a half hours and is near the airport, on the coast north of Colombo . You will then have the rest of the day at leisure.
Check-out of your hotel after a leisurely breakfast, before a short transfer to the airport for your flight home.