Serendib Scops Owl, Sinharaja Forest by Roger Wasley

Tour Dates: Saturday 26th November – Monday 5th December 2022 (Colombo to Colombo)
Standard Tour Price: £2,299 plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Colombo approx. £700 return
Deposit: £450 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £200 – £300
Minimum Number: 5 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people

Target Species
Birds: Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Serendib Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-backed Flameback, Red-backed Flameback, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging-Parrot, Sri Lanka Wood-shrike, Sri Lanka Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Bush-warbler, Sri Lanka Swallow, Black-capped Bulbul, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Scimitar-Babbler, Brown-capped Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Myna, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Thrush, Spot-winged Thrush, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and White-throated Flowerpecker.

Tour Summary
This tour has been specially designed to focus on seeing as many of the 34 Sri Lanka endemic birds as possible within a 10 day tour.
We visit a range of different habitats which enable us not only to see all of the endemic birds but also a great selection of other birds too. These include many species that are wintering in Sri Lanka and are easier to see than when in their breeding grounds, species such as Pied Thrush, Kasmir Flycatcher and Indian Pitta. Of course resident species are equally as impressive with species such as the beautiful Indian Peafowl, Legge’s Hawk-Eagle, Forest Wagtail and Malabar Trogon to name just a few!

ACCOMMODATION: 9 nights in Sri Lanka
Good quality hotels throughout the tour
2 nights Kitulgala, 2 nights Sinharaja, 1 night Uda Walawe, 2 nights Nuwara Eliya, 1 night Kandy and 1 night Katunayake
Inclusive Meals: Full Board

DAY 1:  Arrival and transfer to Kitulgala
On our arrival into Colombo International Airport we are likely to start our birding adventure straight away with species such as Common Myna & Yellow Billed Babbler as we leave the airport! We will then drive a little over two hours to our hotel in the small village of Kitulgala. The Kelani River flows alongside Kitulgala village and dense vegetation and misty mountains surround this mystical landscape. Depending on our arrival time we should still be able to explore the nearby area close to our hotel in daylight where sightings of Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Layard’s Parakeet, Yellow-fronted Barbet and Legge’s Flowerpecker are all possible. Overnight Plantation Hotel, Kitulgala.

DAY2:  Kitulgala Forest
Today we start the day with a pre-breakfast bird walk around the Kitulgala village where we will go in search of numerous specialities of this bird rich area. Species may include Green-billed Coucal, Orange-billed Babbler, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Sri Lanka Red-backed Flameback, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Flame Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole, Brown Shrike, Green Imperial Pigeon, Indian Pitta, Crested Serpent Eagle and Legge’s Hawk Eagle plus many more! Mammals will also feature with the Grizzled Giant Squirrel. 

Sri Lanka Frogmouths, Sinharaja Forest by Chris Townend

We will then return to the hotel for breakfast and then head to the Mahakandarawa Rainforest by crossing the river on a small raft. We will keep our eyes peeled for Little Cormorant and Indian Pond Heron as we cross to the opposite side of the river bank. We will then make our way through the village towards the rainforest entrance and there will be plenty of distractions along the way as we look for species such as Golden-fronted & Jerdon’s Leafbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Sri Lanka Swallow, White-bellied Drongo, Little Green Bee-eater, Blue tailed Bee-eater and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater!

Once inside the rainforest our main targets will be four very special birds, namely the Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Chestnut-backed Owlet and the mystical Serendib Scops Owl.
We will return to the hotel late in the evening hopefully very happy with many new species for the day. Overnight Plantation Hotel, Kitulgala.

DAY 3:  Kitulgala and Sinharaja Forest
We will start the day with a pre-breakfast birding session around the Kitulgala village and after breakfast we will proceed to Sinharaja in time for lunch. During the afternoon we will explore Sinharaja village in search of Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Layard’s Parakeet and many other species. Overnight Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja.

Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sinharaja Forest by Chris Townend

DAY 4:  Sinharaja Forest
We will have a very early breakfast and take a packed lunch with us today as we head out to explore the fabulous Sinharaja Rainforest. The journey to the entrance of the forest will be in a jeep on very rough terrain but we will stop on the way to target many specialities including Layard’s Parakeet, Orange-billed Babbler, Greater Flameback Woodpecker, Scimitar Babbler, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, White-faced Starling, Lesser Hill Myna, White-rumped Munia, Legge’s Flower Pecker and Lesser Yellownape. As we wait by the entrance to this Biosphere Reserve we are sure to see many of the daily residents of the forest including Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, Green-billed Coucal, Black-capped Bulbul, Spot-winged Thrush, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Brown-capped Babbler, Dark-fronted Babbler and a one of the many groups of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys. 

 At the entrance of the forest we will start our trek and will first try for the elusive and shy Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, one of the toughest endemics to see. We will also target the Serendib Scops Owl and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth. We should come across a mixed flock at some point during the walk and we are usually alerted by a feeding frenzy where the crafty Sri Lanka Crested Drongo often mimicks other bird calls. Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, Red-faced Malkoha, Black-naped Monarch, Malabar Trogon, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-faced Starling, Scimitar Babbler and Orange-billed Babbler are all expected in a good flock and if lucky we will cover most of the target species in one flock alone! 

Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka by Chris Townend

Other wildlife we are likely to see includes the Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard, Hump-nosed Lizard, Green Forest Lizard, Green Vine Snake, Bronze-back Tree Snake, Common Rat Snake, Green Pit Viper, Giant Millipede and of course plenty of leeches! Overnight Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja.

DAY 5:  Sinharaja to Udawalawe
Once again, another early start and a packed breakfast as we travel a short distance to a nearby village in the buffer zone of the rainforest where sightings of Sri Lanka Spurfowl can be enjoyed from a local resident’s back garden! The other species we hope to see here is the Slaty-legged Crake. 

After lunch at the Blue Magpie Lodge we will proceed to Udawalawe and we will of course make a few birding stops along the way. During the early evening we will explore the Udawalawe reservoir and the surrounding area for Ashy, Plain and Grey-breasted Prinias, Spot-billed Pelican, Sri Lanka Wood Shrike and many waterbirds.Overnight Centauria Wild, Udawalawe

DAY 6:  Udawalawe to Nuwara Eliya
This morning we take a jeep safari into the Udawalawe National Park.
We will focus on finding birds such as Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Marshall’s Iora, Common Iora, Plain Prinia, Jungle Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Ashy Woodswallow, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark and Oriental Skylark. There are sure to be many mammal distractions along our journey as many Asian Elephants criss-cross our path, some in small herds of five to eight with young ones and some solitary male tuskers! Whilst there is a small population of Leopards in this park, we are far more likely to see Jungle Cats that can be very active during the early morning and we be sure to keep an eye out for this special cat.

Jungle Cat, Udawalawe National Park by Chris Townend

After returning to the hotel for lunch we will check out and proceed to Nuwara Eliya. We will make a stop en-route to visit the Surrey Estate sanctuary where we have an excellent chance of finding a day roosting Brown Wood Owl. This sanctuary also features Purple rumped Sunbird, Loten’s Sunbird, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Oriental White-Eye and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill. Overnight Heaven Seven Hotel, Nuwara Eliya.

DAY 7:  The Highlands of Nuwara Eliya
Another very early start as we travel to the Horton Plains National Park which is situated at 2,200 metres above sea level and temperatures can vary from as little as just 1 degree to 16 degrees. This montane landscape with its vast grassland plains attracts many migrant birds and is home to many special birds and mammals too. Sambar Deer, Black-naped Hare, Brown Mongoose, and Layard’s Squirrel, Dusky-striped Squirrel, Water Buffalo and the Islands apex predator the Leopard. 

Our focus of the morning will be to look for the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush which is one of the key birds of this habitat. Many other specialities are present here and we also hope to find Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Scimitar Babbler, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Hill Swallow and even Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush too! It is sure to be a brilliant morning’s birding and set amongst a very scenic landscape.

Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka by Chris Townend

We will return to the hotel for lunch and in the afternoon we will visit Victoria Park situated in the centre of the city. This public park is well known amongst birders and can hold many highly sought after eastern gems! Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush, Orange-headed Ground Thrush, Forest Wagtail, and Indian Pitta are all very possible during our walk here. Overnight Heaven Seven Hotel, Nuwara Eliya.

DAY 8:  Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
This morning we leave the highlands of Nuwara Eliya and our journey continues to the central mountains of Kandy. After lunch at the hotel we will spend the afternoon visiting the Udawatta Kele sanctuary where we will have a good chance of finding Brown Fish Owl at its day roost. Other species we will look for include Crimson-backed Flameback, Crimson-fronted Barbet, White-rumped Shama, Southern Hill Myna, Forest Wagtail, Layard’s Parakeet, Indian Pitta and Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot. There will also be chance for mammals such as Muntjac, Wild Boar, Mouse Deer, Toque Macaque and Giant Flying Squirrel. Overnight Hotel Thilanka, Kandy.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Sri Lanka by Chris Townend

DAY 9:  Kandy to Katunayake
In the morning we will visit the picturesque Hantane Mountain range where will have further opportunities of finding many of the species seen previoulsy along with raptors such as White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard and Brahminy Kite.
After lunch in the hotel we proceed to Katunayake stopping en-route at various wetlands for Purple Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Indian Pond Heron and Lesser Whistling Duck which are common along the roadside tanks that we will pass.

Once at our hotel before dinner we will explore the hotel garden in search of the Collared Scops and the Brown Hawk Owl which are often present. Overnight Tamarind Tree Hotel, Katunayake

DAY 10: Airport Transfer
After breakfast at our hotel we will take the short transfer to the airport where the tour concludes.

Jungle Owlet, Sri Lanka by Chris Townend

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leaders: Wise Birding leader plus local bird guide
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, bottled water, all entrance fees, ground transport & services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Single Supplement: £300
Transport: Air conditioned coach. Plus Jeeps when visiting various National Parks.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
The walking throughout the tour is relatively. However, some walks on forest trails will be undulating and slippery. Walks of up to 6+Km a day, though much less on others.
Climate: Generally warm to hot with medium/high humidity and rain is also likely
Tour Start Point: Colombo airport, Sri Lanka
Tour End Point: Colombo airport, Sri Lanka
Suggested Airlines: Sri Lanka Airlines

Mahaweli Ganga River, Sri Lanka by Chris Townend