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Birds & Wildlife of Sri Lanka

A chance to see the birds, wildlife and whales of Sri Lanka.


As the early bird catches the worm, the early birder sights his quarry. The morning air is cool in the hills of Sri Lanka. The still air allows noise to travel so quiet is essential. The verdant jungle is ideal habitat, the time of day is ideal and all is set for the perfect morning... Sri Lanka is well known as a naturalist’s paradise with 430 species of outstanding birdlife including 33 endemic to the island. There will also be good chances of encountering spectacular land animals including leopard, sloth bear and Asian elephant.


We fly into Colombo and drive to Waikkal to wander amongst mangroves, where rivers meet the ocean. Here we’ll see an array of wetland birds, including herons, storks, kingfishers and waders. We continue to Kandy where we’ll visit a range of upland habitats and seek species including lameback woodpeckers and parakeets, Hill Swallow, Sri Lanka Swallow, Pied Thrush, and Kashmir Flycatchers. We continue through Nuwara Eliya venturing up over 2000m to Horton Plains to  and such endemics as Ceylon Whistling Thrush, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Ceylon White-eye, along with soaring raptors.


Descending to Kithulgala we’ll look for the recently discovered Serendip Scops Owl, the secretive Yellow-billed Coucal and a unique primate, Red Slender Loris. We travel to Sinharaja Forest Reserve for a rainforest experience. This can be tough but rewarding birding with an array of impressive species to nd, including the national bird, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Ceylon Frogmouth, Red-faced Malkoha and the colourful Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. There may be sightings of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and Giant Squirrel. We descend to drier plains of the National Parks of Udawalawe, famed for its Asian elephants and Yala with its magnificent rock outcrops and most of all, its population of leopards, plus sloth bears and deer herds. Finally we reach Mirissa for whale-watching with a short boat trip to look for the huge Blue Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale and large schools of acrobatic Spinner Dolphin. We return to Waikkal for our final night before flying home.

Activity Level
You enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air, communing with nature and discovering the world at a relaxed pace. Short countryside strolls or sightseeing on foot make you feel good. You enjoy cities with art and culture and like to develop an interest in your surroundings. You are reasonably fit and healthy. No previous experience is required.


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    28 Oct 2017
    Level A
    Depart From
    London (Gatwick)
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  • Itinerary & Map
    28 Oct 2017 - 14 Nov 2017

    Day 1 - In flight
    We depart from London Gatwick to Colombo via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.

    Day 2 - Waikkal
    We arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport and transfer the short distance to Waikkal. We stay close by a nature reserve where the mangrove forests and rivers converge to meet the sea. After unpacking we can explore the nature trails where more than 60 species of birds have been observed. Commonly seen here are the Purple Coot, Painted Stork, Stork Billed Kingfisher and the Little Green Heron amongst others.

    Day 3 - Kandy
    After breakfast we drive to the uplands to Kandy, the former capital. In the afternoon we will visit Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of Kandy, a birdwatcher's delight for Greater and Black-Rumped Flamebacks, Rufous Woodpecker, Common Tailorbird, Alexandrine and Layard's Parakeets, Asian Koel, Asian Brown and Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Oriental White-eye and Indian Pitta amongst others.

    Day 4 - Kandy
    We have an early morning bird watching visit to the gardens in Kandy before breakfast in the hotel. We will take sometime to relax then continue with a visit to the historic sites.

    Day 5 - Nuwara Eliya
    After breakfast we drive through the highlands to Nuwara Eliya visiting a Tea plantation and a Tea factory en-route. The Sri Lankans will say this is the home of the best tea in the world. We will be taken through the production process and doubtless given a cup to savour. After lunch and a short break, we will take a bird watching walk in Queens Park.

    Day 6 - Kithugala
    We will leave the hotel before dawn with a packed breakfast in hand to travel to Horton Plains National Park, hopefully arriving just after first light. Before you reach the park headquarters, a stop will be made to try and locate the very rare Ceylon Whistling Thrush. This small bird frequents mountain streams with dense cover above 800m. This is an area reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands and the views are outstanding on a clear day. Birds to watch out for include the Pied Bush Chat, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Scaly Thrush and Scaly-breasted and the Ceylon Warbler. The trail goes through pinewoods where we should find Ceylon Junglefowl, Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Common and Hill Mynas and Black-winged Kites. The road then climbs high above wooded valleys to where two endemics occur, the Dusky-Blue Flycatcher and the highly localized Ceylon White - Eye. Areas of scrub and low trees have two of Sri Lanka's rarest endemics in the Ceylon Bush-warbler and the Ceylon Woodpigeon. Also look out for Crested Serpent and Mountain Hawk Eagles, Common Buzzard and the rather uncommon race of Black Winged Kite. We should be back in Nuwara Eliya for a late lunch After lunch, we visit Victoria Park to have a chance of spotting wintering Pied Thrushes, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Kashmir Flycatcher and Indian Blue Robin. Finally in late afternoon we leave for Kithulgala.

    Day 7 - Kithugala
    Kithulgala is attractively situated above a river overlooking the beautiful rain forest here. It is here that the film "Bridge over the River Kwai" was filmed in 1958. After breakfast at the hotel we will make a short visit to a remnant area of rain forest looking for the endemic Green Billed Coucal, Ceylon Magpie amongst other species. We will also look out for White-breasted Kingfisher, Crested Drongo, Crested Serpent and Hawk Eagles. After lunch we cross the river in a dugout canoe to visit the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve. The rain forest has important numbers of endemic birds. The Green-Billed Coucal, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Spotted-winged Thrush, Yellow-fronted Barbet and perhaps the secretive Ceylon Spurfowl are birds to look out for. The lower ground, with its fruiting trees, attracts the endemic Ceylon Mynas. The river has Stork-billed Kingfisher, Black Bittern, Little Cormorant, Little Egret and wintering Common Sandpipers.

    Day 8 - Sinharaja
    We have the option of a pre breakfast walk to hopefully catch any missing sightings from yesterday. After breakfast we continue to Sinharaja rain forest, a world heritage site. Here we find tropical low land rain forest, with a high degree of endemism in this ecosystem. 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka have been recorded in Sinharaja. Some of the birds to look out for in the forest are the Ceylon Spur fowl, Ceylon Jungle fowl, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Ceylon Blue Magpie, Rufous Babbler and many more.

    Day 9 - Sinharaja
    We will have a pre breakfast visit to the Sinharaja forest before returning to the hotel. After some free time, late in the afternoon we will walk along the forest edge to hopefully spot the nocturnal, endemic Slender Loris.

    Day 10 - Udawalawe
    We have another pre breakfast trip into the forest. After breakfast we depart for Udawalawe National park, a dry zone game park, very famous for its elephants in their natural surroundings as well as its diverse bird population. In the afternoon we will take a jeep Safari for a bird watching experience in the park. Udawalawe has extensive areas of grassland, old trees, jungle, water holes and rivers, attracting high numbers of birds and animals. Elephants are common here. Birds of prey are a special attraction and include Osprey, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Black-shouldered Kites. Additionally, the tracks attract many species of birds to look out for such as Large Prinia, Black Fronted Babbler, Common and Marshalls Iora, the Ceylon Grey Hornbill, White Necked Stork, Crested Hawk Eagle and the Indian Pea Fowl. The grasslands are also important for Plaintive and Pied Crested Cuckoos. We stay until dusk at Udawalawe, as it is a reliable area for Brown Fishing Owl, a speciality of the park. Among the migrant birds are the forest Wagtails, Indian Pitta, Whiskered Terns, Osprey, Sand Pipers and Terns.

    Day 11 - Yala
    We have an early departure to visit Bundala National Park, a birdwatcher's paradise. You will travel around the park on rutted and often water-filled tracks. Bundala holds Peafowl that are here in their natural habitat, often in the treetops. We should get close views of Painted Stork, Asian Open Bill, Graeter Flamingo, Indian and Little Tern, Ceylon Jungle fowl, Little Green, Chestnut-headed and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Ashy-crowned Sparrow-lark, Black backed Yellow Woodpecker and Oriental Darter. There are waders including Eurasian and Greater Thick-knees. At dusk, you may have a chance of seeing and hearing Indian Nightjars.

    Day 12 - Weligama
    After breakfast we visit the Tissamaharama tank on the way to Yala. Look out for the remarkable White-naped Woodpecker and Clamorous Reed Warblers. The huge lily-covered tank and surrounding farmland are excellent for birds. We expect to locate Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pacific Swallow and Ashy Prinia. The road to Yala also offers bird watching stops, in addition to being an exceptional area for mammals. After arriving at our accommodation we will have some time to rest before taking a late afternoon, Jeep safari to Yala National Park. Here we should see Elephant, Spotted Deer and Sambur and there is a good chance of seeing Leopards at dusk. The birds are similar to those at Bundala and Kalamitiya but with the added attraction of the huge Black-necked Stork, Brahminy Starling, Black-headed Cuckoos and Black Drongo. On the way back from Yala, you may see Indian and Jerdon's Nightjars sitting on the tracks.

    Day 13 - Weligama
    Today is an easy day. We transfer to our hotel at Weligama and enjoy the rest of the day relaxing.

    Day 14 - Weligama
    Today is whale watching day! We start out early to Mirissa Harbour and take a boat out into the ocean. Sighting of whales is possible within 6-7 km of land and varieties commonly seen are Blue, Sperm and occasionally Orca. Dolphins can be spotted frequently.

    Day 15 - Waikkal
    Finally we return to Waikkal for our final night. We will arrive in plenty of time for further bird watching around the hotel grounds.

    Day 16 - In flight
    Later in the day we will return to Colombo airport for our overnight flight to the UK.

    Day 17 -
    We arrive back in the UK.

  • Accommodation

    Good tourist class hotels throughout.

  • What's Included

    Holiday Price Includes:

    • Return flights and transfers.
    • Half board with breakfast and dinners taken at hotels.
    • All local transport costs.

    Supplement for single room: £500-£560

  • Holiday Highlights

    Holiday Highlights:

    • A huge diversity of birdlife including 33 endemics to be sought.
    • The Blue Whales at Mirissa - the best place in the world to see them.
    • Yala National Park for leopard.
    • Udawalawe National Park for the Asian elephant.

  • Travel Information & Regional Departures
    • Arrival transfer by road (c30mins).
    • Flights: Gatwick-Colombo via Istanbul (c14hrs + en-route stop in Male), Turkish Airlines.
    • Regional  flights may be available from £30 supplement. Please ask for details.    
    • UK add-on  flights from £150 return, British Airways.
    • Upgrades available, please ask for a competitive quote.
    • Visa is required.

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  • Private Group Enquiry

    Planning a holiday for a group? For a quote or to simply enquire about the possibility of booking this holiday for your Walking Group please fill out the enquiry form below and our dedicated Private Group Department will get in touch with you shortly to discuss your options.

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Activity Level
You enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air, communing with nature and discovering the world at a relaxed pace. Short countryside strolls or sightseeing on foot make you feel good. You enjoy cities with art and culture and like to develop an interest in your surroundings. You are reasonably fit and healthy. No previous experience is required.


Please select a departure date


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