Since our last tour to Sri Lanka in December 2015 we have made changes to the itinerary for an all round better experience. We have excluded Yala NP as in our opinion, Yala has become far too busy and chaotic resulting in a poor wildlife experience. For similar reasons we have decided to no longer include the whale watching option on the coast until more boats pay attention to the basic whale watching codes of conduct.
However, on a more positive note, we are now including Wilpatthu NP instead of Yala. This is a far less busy park with wonderful habitat, scenery and excellent birding opportunities. Our chances of seeing leopard here are also very good indeed and without the large number of tourists for a better experience.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL
TRANSFER TO WILPATTHU
On arrival into Colombo, we will travel north along the coast to Wilpatthu National Park. We will spend the afternoon / evening relaxing in close proximity to our hotel to familiarise ourselves with some of the commoner species found in this part of Sri Lanka. Overnight: Sinharagama Hotel Wilpatthu
DAYS 2 & 3: WILPATTHU NP
We shall have two full days birding in Wilpatthu and looking for the Sri Lanka endemic race leopard. Transport will be in jeeps during the two days.
Wilpattu National Park (Land of Lakes) is the largest and one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. The park contains numerous natural lakes and the birding is excellent. Target species include: Black-necked Stork, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle, Sri Lanka, Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Barred Buttonquail, Malabar Pied Hornbills, Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill, Sri Lankan Woodshrike, Blue-faced Malkoha, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike, Chestnut-headed Bee- eater, Lesser Adjutant, White-browed Bulbul, Red-wattled Lapwings and Yellow-browed Bulbuls, Barred buttonquail, Indian Peafowl, White-rumped Shama, Sri Lanka Swallow, Common Iora, Lesser Adjudant, Painted Stork, Brown-capped Babbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Brown Fishing Owl.Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Great Thick-knee, Small Pratincole, Brown Fish-owl and more! Possible Mammals include: Leopard, Hanuman Langur, Golden Jackal, Sloth Bear, Indian Grey Mongoose, Ruddy Mongoose, Indian Brown Mongoose, Asian Elephant, Wild Boar, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Water Buffalo, Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel, Indian Hare. Overnight Sinharagama Hotel
DAY 4: WILPATTHU NP / KANDY
After breakfast we will proceed to Kandy via Dambulla having lunch en route.
During the afternoon we will visit Udawattakele Santuary where we will look for species such as Brown-capped Babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Square-tailed Black Bulbul, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and there may be a possibility of Spot-breasted Eagle Owl if birds have been reported recently.
Overnight: Kandyan Villa in Kandy
Day 5: KANDY / KITULGALA
Before breakfast we will do some birding in the Hantane area before travelling to Kithulgala.
The Kelani Valley Forest Reserve (also known as the Kitulgala Forest Reserve; altitude 100m – 820m) across the river Kelani in Kitulgala had been established to conserve a part of the watershed of the Kelani River. Kitulgala which is also famous as it was the location for the 1957 David Lean movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ is home to a good number of Sri Lanka’s lowland endemic bird species. Second only to Sinharaja, the Kitulgala forest reserve has many of the lowland endemic birds of Sri Lanka. Therefore we double our chances of finding the endemics before visiting Sinharaja. This reserve is also excellent for butterflies including a number of rare endemics.
Target species will include: Shikra, Green Imperial-pigeon, Sri Lanka Thick-KneeHanging-parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Serendib Scops-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Crested Treeswift, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Sri Lanka Grey HornbillHornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Sri Lanka Swallow, Orange Minivet, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Rufous Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Oriental White-eye, Rosy-Starling Common Hill-myna, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo.
Mammal possibilities include: Grizzled Indian Squirrel and Layard’s Striped Squirrel. The streams inside it hold many endemic fish and amphibians. The Earless Lizard is one of the reptiles seen frequently. Overnight: Plantation Hotel Kithulgala
DAY 6: KITULGALA
We shall enjoy a full day in Kitulgala.
Target species: Shikra, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Yellow-eared-BulbulSri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Sri Lanka Green-pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Green-billed Coucal, Greater Coucal, Serendib Scops-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Crested Treeswift, Malabar Trogon, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka Swallow, Orange Minivet, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Blue Monarch, Black-capped Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Common Iora, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Spot-winged Ground-thrush, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Sri Lanka Rufous Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Legge’s
Flowerpecker, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Oriental White-eye, Black-throated Munia, Sri Lanka Hill-.myna, Common Hill-myna, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo. Overnight: Plantation Hotel Kithulgala
DAY 7: KITHULGALA / NUWARA ELIYA
After breakfast we will do some final birding around Kithulgala until lunch before making our way to the Central Highlands of Nuwara Eliya. The ‘summer resort’ of Nuwara Eliya is a mountain station at 1,868 m (6,128 ft), in a splendid landscape. Before the early 19th century this was an uninhabited system of forests and meadows in the shadow of Piduruthalagala (aka Mt Pedro, 2524m) the highest point of Sri Lanka where Elephants roamed freely. British planters flocked to the hill country following the introduction of tea in 1867 and Nuwara Eliya soon developed into a summer retreat due to its much cooler climate. If time allows we shall visit Victoria Park of Nuwara Eliya. The park is very popular with birders and is said to have been named to commemorate the 60th Jubilee Coronation of Queen Victoria in the year1897. Originally the park was used as the research field of Hakgala Botanical Garden which is located about 10km away from it. Victoria Park, though in close proximity to the city centre, is an ornithological hot spot where sometimes, rare migrant bird species can be found, so we need to be prepared! Target species: Indian Pitta, Forest Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Orange Minivet, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Pied Ground-thrush,
Kashmir Flycatcher, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Oriental Magpie-robin, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler & Sri Lanka White-eye.
Overnight: Leisure Village Nuwara Eliya
DAY 8: NUWARA ELIYA / HORTON PLAINS
A pre-dawn start to be in Horton Plains National Park at first light (with picnic breakfast). With a land area of over 6,100 hectares, Horton Plains National Park is the highest plateau or table land in Sri Lanka. Its elevation ranges between 1,800m and 2,300m. On the south-western side is Kirigalpottha and on its north-eastern side is Thotupola Kanda, respectively the second and third highest points in Sri Lanka. The most dramatic feature of the National Park is ‘World’s End’ where the plateau comes to an abrupt end and drops nearly 1000m vertically. This forest grassland ecosystem with its undulating terrain is interspersed with patches of cloud forest and is home to Leopards, Sambur, the endemic “Bear Monkey” (the highland race of the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey) and a rich array of bird species including all the highland endemics. Possible species: Himalayan Buzzard, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Common Kestrel, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Crimson-backed Flameback, Grey Wagtail, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Spot-winged Ground-thrush, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Common Blackbird, Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Pied Bushchat, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler, Sri Lanka Bush-warbler, Bright-green Warbler, Large-billed Leaf-warbler, Great Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black-throated Munia. In the afternoon, we shall do some more birding around Nuwara Eliya. Overnight: Leisure Village Nuwara Eliya
DAY 9: NUWARA ELIYA / TISSAMAHARAMA
After breakfast we will do some final birding around Nuwara Eliya dependent on which key species we may be missing. We will then proceed to the dry zone of Tissamaharama, most commonly referred to as “Tissa.” It is one of the most pleasant towns in south-eastern Sri Lanka. A bustling little township with the main street lined with banks, shops, restaurants & little cafes and kiosks. A number of large man-made ‘tanks’ (reservoirs) with an abundance of birdlife make Tissa one of the most important wetland habitats in the island. We shall do some birding en route and if time allows, spend the afternoon exploring the wetlands of Tissa. Target species: Little Grebe, Spot-billed Pelican, Little Cormorant, Indian Shag, Great Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Little Egret, Western Reef-heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Indian Pond-heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Yellow Bittern, Chestnut Bittern, Black Bittern, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Cotton Teal, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle, Watercock, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Sri Lanka Green-pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Alexandrine Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Pied Crested Cuckoo, Blue-faced Malkoha, Indian Scops-owl, Brown Fish-owl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Lesser Pied Kingfisher, Little Green Bee-eater, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback, White-naped Flameback, Bengal Bushlark, Blyth’s Pipit, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Indian Reed-warbler, Streaked Weaver, Baya Weaver, Black-hooded Oriole and Ashy Woodswallow. Overnight: Rain Tree Hotel Tissamaharama
DAY 10: TISSAMAHARAMA / BUNDALA / EMBILIPITIYA
We shall take a morning jeep safari in Bundala NP. Bundala National Park which is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds. Hence, in 1991, it became the island’s first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site. It harbors over 190 species of birds, the highlight being the Greater Flamingo, which migrates in large flocks. Bundala NP contains fiveshallow, brackish lagoons and some salt pans where the Flamingos are seen very often. This park is also situated in the semi-arid climatic region. Bundala National Park is a mix of scrub jungle and sand dunes bordering the sea. Its beaches are important nesting sites for turtles. Target species: Spot-billed Pelican, Striated Heron, Yellow Bittern, Chestnut Bittern, Black Bittern, Painted Stork, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Whistling-duck, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Garganey, Common Teal, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle,Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Barred Buttonquail, Watercock, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Greater Painted-snipe, Common Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Great Thick-knee, Small Pratincole, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested Tern, Little Tern, Saunders’s Tern, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Sirkeer Malkoha, Pied Crested Cuckoo, Blue-faced Malkoha, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Bengal Bushlark, Ashy-crowned Finch-lark, Oriental Skylark, Citrine Wagtail, Western Yellow Wagtail, Brahminy Starling, Rosy Starling. Mammals likely to be seen include: Elephant, Spotted Deer, Hanuman Langur, Golden Jackal, Black-naped Hare and Wild Pig.
We shall then proceed to Embilipitiya having lunch on the way and visiting the Udawalawe tank en route also. Overnight: Centauria Hotel Embilipitiya
DAY 11: UDAWALAWE / SINHARAJA
This morning we take a picnic breakfast with us whilst enjoying a jeep safari in Uda Walawe NP. Established in 1972 as a National Park with a land area of over 30,800 hectares, Udawalawe is located in the Sabaragamuwa & Uva Provinces and includes theUdawalawe Reservoir. Its altitude ranges from 100m on the plains to 373m at the highest point within the park. The park is a mixture of abandoned Teak plantations, grassland, scrub jungle and riverine ‘gallery forest’ along the Walawe Ganga and Mau Ara. Elephants for which this National Park is famous for can be seen any time of the year. Other mammals that can be observed include: Wildboar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Golden Jackal, Sambar, Water Buffalo, Black-naped Hare, the endemic Toque Macaque and Gray Langurs. If we are lucky, we may see Jungle Cat.
Bird watching is best during the Northern hemisphere winter (October to April) when the migrant birds are in the island. By spending just a day or two in the park you can easily see over a 100 species during the migratory season. Udawalawe is specially known for its many species of raptors. Target species: Spot-billed Pelican, Oriental Darter, Lesser Adjutant, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Pied Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Crested Hawk-eagle, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Barred Buttonquail, Black-winged Stilt, Great Thick-knee, Yellow-wattled & Red-wattled Lapwing, Jerdon’s Bushlark, Ashy-crowned Finch-lark, Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Plum-headed Parakeet, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Coppersmith Barbet, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker, Blyth’s Pipit , Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Yellow-eyed Babbler, all the Prinias, Indian Silverbill.
After lunch near Udawalawe, we will then spend threats of the afternoon travelling to Sinharaja, the number one site for endemic birds in the country! Overnight: Blue Magpie Lodge
DAYS 12 & 13: SINHARAJA FOREST
We shall spend two full days exploring this wonderful forest. Sinharaja is, Sri Lanka’s last remaining rainforest (Altitude: 90m – 1170m) and is located in theChesnut-backed-owlet Southwest corner of the island. This thin sliver of Man and Biosphere Reserve (21km long and 3.7km wide) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Wilderness Area in 1988. It is arguably the most important biodiversity site in Sri Lanka and is also an internationally important site for tropical biodiversity. The Sinharaja mixed species flocks (bird waves) which according to a study carried out over many years, have an average of over 40 individual birds. This number makes this one of the world’s largest mixed species bird flocks if not the largest. Twenty-nine of the island’s 33 endemic bird species have been observedPainted-Stork here making it an ‘endemic birding hotspot’. Half of the island’s endemic mammals and butterflies are found here and a staggering 64% of the trees are endemic to Sri Lanka. If time permits we shall spend the late afternoon birding in Sinharaja periphery. Target species: Sri Lanka Green-pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Black-rumped Flameback, Sri Lanka Swallow, White-browed Fantail, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Loten’s & Purple-rumped Sunbird.
Other Target species include: Crested Goshawk, Shikra, Besra Sparrowhawk, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Sri Lanka Green-pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot, Plum-headed Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Green-billed Coucal, Greater Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Serendib Scops-owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Brown-throated Needletail, Crested Treeswift, Malabar Trogon, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka Swallow, Orange Minivet, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Blue Monarch, Black-capped Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Himalayan Black Bulbul, Common Iora, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Spot-winged Ground-thrush, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar-babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler, Sri Lanka Rufous Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Oriental White-eye, Black-throated Munia, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Hill-myna, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
Mammals: Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel, Layard’s Striped Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel. Overnight: Blue Magpie Lodge
DAY 14: KATUNAYAKE
After some final birding around Sinharaja, we shall then head towards our final hotel near the airport and take in the famous town of Kandy en route where we shall have time to stop for a little while. We shall have lunch in Ambepussa and the afternoon will allow some time to relax and repack ready for our early morning departure to the airport.
Overnight: Tamarind Tree Hotel Katunayaka
DAY 15: DEPART TO UK
After a leisurely breakfast we shall transfer to the Airport for departure.