SRI LANKA: Endemic birds and Wilpatthu NP Leopards 2019

Dates: Saturday 5th – Saturday 19th January 2019 (Colombo to Colombo)
 per person plus flight

Estimated Flight Price:
London to Colombo direct approx. £600 return

Conservation Donation from Wise Birding:
 Approx. £200 – £320
Deposit: £450 per person
Minimum Number required for trip to run: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people
3 nights Wilpatthu, 1 night Kandy, 2 nights Kitulgala, 2 nights Nuwara Eliya, 1 night Tissamaharama, 1 night Embilipitiya, 3 nights Sinharaja and 1 night Katunayaka near airport.

Target Birds:

Red-faced Malkoha, Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Pitta, Pied Ground-Thrush, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Ceylon Hanging-Parrot, Serendib Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Yellow-fronted Barbet,  Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and Black-necked Stork to name just a few!

Target Mammals:
Blue Whale, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Sloth Bear, Asian Elephant Sambar Deer, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Toque Macaque, Golden Jackal, Black-naped Hare, Ruddy Mongoose and much more!

Since our very successful tour to Sri Lanka in Jan 2018 where we saw all the endemic birds and three Leopards, we are pleased to continue to include Wilpatthu NP on our itinerary instead of busy Yala. Wilpatthu is a far quieter park with wonderful habitat, scenery and excellent birding opportunities. Our group enjoyed 3 separate leopard sightings in 2018 and with no other tourists!

Sri-Lanka-SceneryDAY 1: ARRIVAL
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

Brown-Fish-Owl-400-wideDAYS 2 & 3: WILPATTHU NP
We will 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, Bee-Eater-400-wideCrested 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 Deer, Spotted Deer, Water Buffalo, Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel, Indian Hare. Overnight Sinharagama Hotel

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

Blue-MagpieDay 5: KANDY / KITULGALA
Before breakfast we will do some birding in the Hantane area before travelling to Kitulgala.
The Kelani Valley Forest Reserve (also known as the Kitulgala Forest Reserve; altitude 100m – 820m) across the river Kelani in Kitulgala was established to conserve a part of the watershed of the Kelani River. Kitulgala which is also famous as 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 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 Indian-PittaLanka 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 KithulgalaChestnut-backed Owlet

We shall enjoy a full day birding in Kitulgala.
Giant-SquirrelOvernight: Plantation Hotel Kitulgala

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 and set 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,
Pied-Thrush-400-wideKashmir 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

Horton-Plains-400-wideDAY 8: NUWARA ELIYA / HORTON PLAINS
A pre-dawn start today as it is important to be in Horton Plains National Park at first light. With a land area of over 6,100 hectares, Horton Plains National Park is the highest plateau or table land in Sri WB-Kingfisher-400-wideLanka. 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 Elephants-Udu-Walawe-400-wigrassland ecosystem with its undulating terrain is interspersed with patches of cloud forest and is home to Leopards, Sambar Deer, the endemic “Bear Monkey” (the highland race of the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey) and a rich array of bird species including all Painted-Storkthe 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 SPot-winged-Thrush-400-wideLanka 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

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 Bee-EaterLanka. 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 HornbillDarter, 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

We shall take a morning jeep safari in Bundala NP, an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds. In 1991 it became the island’s first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site. Over 190 species of birds have been recorded, the highlight being the Greater Flamingo, which migrates in large flocks. Bundala NP contains five shallow, 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

This morning we take a picnic breakfast with us whilst enjoying a jeep safari in Uda Walawe NP. The park was established as a National Park in 1972 with an area of over 30,800 hectares located in the Sabaragamuwa & Uva Provinces. The park is a mixture of abandoned Teak plantations, grassland, scrub jungle and riverine ‘gallery forest’. The park is especially famous for Elephants but there are many other mammals that can be seen here too. These include, Wild Boar, 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 also see Jungle Cat.
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

We shall spend two full days exploring this wonderful forest. Sinharaja is, Sri Lanka’s last remaining rainforest and is located in the Southwest corner of the island. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Wilderness Area in 1988 and is one of the most important biodiversity sites in Sri Lanka. Twenty-nine of the island’s 33 endemic bird species have been observed 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. Target species: Sri Lanka Green-pigeon, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, 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 species we hope to find include: Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Hawk-eagle,, 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, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-backed Flameback, Orange Minivet, Pied Flycatcher-shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Blue Monarch, Black-capped Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, 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

After some final birding around Sinharaja, we shall then head towards our final hotel near the airport. We can 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 Katunayake

After a leisurely breakfast we shall transfer to the Airport for departure.

Leaders: Local guide Saman Kumara and Ryan Irvine
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, water, all entrance fees, ground transport and services of leaders
NOT Included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water, any airport/visa fees and items of a personal nature
Accommodation: Good quality hotels with half-board and packed lunches / hotel lunches
Single Supplement: £399
Max. Group Size: 8
Transport: AC 8 seater minivan. Plus Jeeps when visiting Wilpatthu NP, Bundala and Uda Walawe NP
Difficulty: The walking throughout is relatively easy with leisurely walks on forest trails.
Climate: Generally warm to hot with medium/high humidity and rain is also likely.
Meeting Point: Colombo airport, Sri Lanka
Tour End: Colombo airport, in the morning of day 15
Suggested Airlines: Sri Lankan Airlines from London Heathrow
Note: This is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted in relation to arrival and departure times, weather conditions and other related factors.