Visit several national parks and spot mammals including leopard and elephant, as well as up to 430 bird species
Sri Lanka is a perfect destination for lovers of wildlife and on our Nature & Birdwatching Small Group Tour, you will visit several national parks and reserves, where you can spot a variety of mammals including leopard and elephant, as well as a myriad of bird species. With more than 430 species recorded, comprising of endemic, resident and migrants, Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for viewing a great variety of birds within a relatively short period of time. This tour covers both wet and dry zones and with the guidance of your exceptionally knowledgeable local leader/guide, will provide an excellent chance of observing a great diversity of flora and fauna, while enjoying all the many other delights of this fascinating country.
The dates for the Small Group Tour are –
19th March – 1st April 2020
18th – 31st March 2021
As always, we can design a similar itinerary, for those of you who would prefer to travel independently on dates of your choosing.
Day 1 DEPART UK
Depart from London Heathrow on Sri Lankan Airlines direct overnight flight to Sri Lanka. Regional airport departures are possible at a supplement.
DAYS 2 – 3 KITHULGALA FOREST
2 Nights –Kithulgala Heritage Resort – Full Board
On arrival at the airport in Colombo, your local guide and driver will be at the airport arrival lobby to welcome you. You will then proceed to Kithulgala, situated beside the Kelani River and famously known as the location where The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed. The remainder of the day will be spent birding locally, around the hotel premises or in the nearby woodlands where you may spot the Chestnut-backed Owlet, endemic to Sri Lanka. You may also spot a variety of the commoner birds of Sri Lanka’s ‘Wet Zone’ such as Shikra, Spotted Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Asian Koel, Brown-headed Barbet, Oriental Magpie Robin, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Iora and Black-hooded Oriole.
After breakfast the next morning, you will be ferried across the river in search of the sought-after endemic, the Serendib Scops Owl. Still only found at around half-a-dozen sites, this wonderful little bird is strictly nocturnal by habit and as such, spotting one during daylight hours is a rare privilege indeed! Along some of the quieter trails are several exciting endemics such as the Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Orange-billed Babbler and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill. The area is rich in other bird life such as the Indian Swiftlets, Crested Goshawk, Crested Treeswift, Rufous Woodpecker and Crimson-backed Flameback.
DAYS 4 – 6 NUWARA ELIYA – HORTON PLAINS NATIONAL PARK & VICTORIA PARK
2 Nights – Kings Cottage, Nuwara Eliya – Full Board
A final early morning exploration where you may spot Oriental Magpie-robin, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Pale-billed Flower peckers, Purple-rumped, Loten’s Sunbirds, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Brown-headed Barbet, Green Warblers and maybe even a first Indian Pitta!
After breakfast, we will proceed to the Hill Country that Sri Lanka is well known for and will stay for two nights in the town of Nuwara Eliya, known as ‘Little England’. Set at an elevation of nearly 2000m (6500ft), this famous old hill-station is the hub of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. There are extensive areas of forest in this region, where you can spot the Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Hill Swallow, Sri Lanka White-eye, the extremely secretive Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Black-throated Munia, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, the shy Indian Blackbird and the rare Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush.
Victoria Park, is located in the town and within walking distance of the hotel. It is a haunt for many montane forest specialties. Popular birds within the park include the Kashmir Flycatcher, Indian Pitta and Pied Thrush, as well as Sri Lanka White-eye and the highland form of Purple-faced Langur – known locally as the ‘Bear Monkey’.
The Horton Plains National Park, is probably one of the best wildlife hotspots in Sri Lanka. This is a vast moorland plateau inhabited by Sambhur, Leopard, Bear Monkey and Mouse Deer. Bird species include Pied Bushchats and Paddyfield Pipits, we can scan the forest slopes for Mountain Hawk Eagle or even a Black Eagle.
On the way, we will stop at Surrey Bungalow, inside the Surrey Tea Estate, where we will have a chance to see the workings of a tea factory in the hills.
DAYS 6 – 8 RATNAPURA – SINHARAJA RAINFOREST
3 Nights – Birds Paradise, Sinharaja – Full Board
After breakfast, travel to Ratnapura. Here you may spot White-browed Fantail and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Yellow-fronted Barbets and rufous-chested Sri Lanka Swallows, Indian Robin, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, and White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias.
We will then proceed to Sinharaja, arriving at dusk at the remote Birds Paradise, a simple yet comfortable little place situated in close proximity to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, an important area for endemic birds and other wildlife. Home to over half of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies, it is also home to all but one of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species.
A very early start is essential in order to reach the higher level of the forest as the wildlife is most active in the hours just prior to sunrise and sunset. The first rays of sunlight may reveal a Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Green Imperial Pigeon or mixed feeding flocks that might hold Malabar Trogon, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, Sri Lankan Scimitar-babbler, Brown-capped Babbler, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Hill Myna and the fabulous Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
Butterflies of many a hue, including the stunning endemic Ceylon Tree Nymph, Sri Lanka Birdwing and Blue Mormon can be seen here. Giant squirrels, Purple-faced Langur, Toque Macaque and the Red-faced Malkoha are also popular sightings.
The first afternoon will be at leisure or you may do some birding near the hotel grounds. We will then have a second full day inside the Sinharaja Rain Forest and you may be fortunate enough to spot the notoriously elusive Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush and Sri Lanka Spur fowl.
DAY 9 UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK & TISSAWEWA TANKS
1 Night – Centauria Wild, Udawalawe – Full Board
After breakfast, we will proceed to Udawalawe National Park, which is famous for mammals such as the Indian Elephant, Jungle Cat, Golden Jackal, Chital, Wild Boar and Mongoose. We will then head to Tissa known for its concentration of rich wildlife sites within close proximity, ranging from its extensive ‘tanks’ (manmade reservoirs) to orchards and coconut palm plantations, each home to a unique group of species. Later this afternoon, we will visit one of these tanks, where we’ll spend some time searching for Cotton Pygmy Goose and Lesser Whistling Duck, Grey-headed Fish and White-bellied Sea Eagles, the White-naped Woodpecker and the Brown Fish Owl.
DAYS 10 – 12 BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK & YALA NATIONAL PARK
3 Nights – Thaulle Resort, Tissa – Full Board
Early this morning, we will explore the countryside near the Udawalawe National Park. Travelling by jeep, into the scrub jungle and grasslands that are surprisingly rich in species variety. Along the park trails, we may spot the female Barred Buttonquail, Blyth’s Pipits and Blyth’s Reed Warblers, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Roller, Plum-headed and Alexandrine Parakeets, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, and Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, and The Indian Peafowl. The Crested Hawk-eagle, Black-winged Kite and Malabar Pied Hornbill, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers, Grey-breasted, Ashy, and the Yellow-eyed Babbler. Udawalawe is also famous for mammals such as the Indian Elephant, Jungle Cat, Golden Jackal, Chital, Wild Boar and Mongoose.
After this, we will head to Tissa known for its concentration of rich wildlife sites within close proximity, ranging from its extensive ‘tanks’ (manmade reservoirs) to orchards and coconut palm plantations, each home to a unique group of species.
Early the next morning, we head to the Bundala National Park on a jeep safari, taking along a picnic breakfast to be able to make the most of the morning here. The wetland is simply alive with birds from a plethora of herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills to a multitude of waders! Large numbers of spindly-legged Marsh Sandpipers and other shorebirds can be seen at Bundala, as well as Broad-billed Sandpipers, Little Stints, Greater Sand Plovers, Kentish and Lesser Sand Plovers and even several diminutive Little Pratincoles, roosting on the nearby bunds.
Up to eight species of tern roost on Bundala’s extensive saltpans, ranging from the massive Caspian to the diminutive Little Tern. You can also see both Greater Crested and Lesser Crested Terns, White-winged Black Terns, The Great Thick-knee, Oriental Skylarks, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-larks and Jerdon’s Bush Lark and the Reed Warbler.
The next day we will explore Yala West National Park also by jeep, as it’s not possible to bird on foot within the park. This park is well known for Leopard, which are often to be found dozing and draped over a shady tree bough. We can also expect to see Mugger Crocodiles, Grey Langur, Sambar and Spotted Deer.
Yala is also abundant in birdlife such as the Indian Peafowl, Lesser Adjutant, Black-necked Stork, Spot-billed Pelican and White-bellied Sea Eagle. Dry country birds include Pied and Grey-bellied Cuckoos, Small Minivet, the exceptionally ‘spotty’ Yellow-crowned and the minute Brown-capped Woodpeckers, the recently-split Sri Lank Woodshrike and both Blue-faced and Sirkeer Malkohas. Marshall’s Iora, an Indian species only recently discovered in Sri Lanka, has latterly been found to be breeding in the park. Towards dusk we can try to spot an Indian Nightjar.
DAY 13 NEGOMBO – VIA KITHULGALA
1 Night – Camelot Beach, Negombo – Full Board
After breakfast, we will proceed to Negombo via Kithulgala. Here we may have another opportunity to look out for endemic birds such as Legge’s Flowerpecker, Yellow-fronted Barbet and Sri Lanka Grey. Once in Negombo you will have the opportunity to relax by the beach or pool and enjoy a farewell dinner.
DAY 14 NEGOMBO – AIRPORT
After a leisurely breakfast, we will depart for the airport at Colombo for your flight back to the UK.