13-Day Sri Lanka Wildlife Tour
Join us on this expedition to one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots on the planet. The small island of Sri Lanka boasts 123 mammal species (21 endemic), 122 species of amphibians (112 endemic), 179 reptile species (109 endemic) and 3,210 flowering plant species (916 endemics). This is a naturalists’ paradise and our 13-Day Tour is guarenteed to be an unforgettable bucket list experience!
This Expert Guided Wildlife Tour can be booked as a Private Safari for any date as per your planned travel dates.
Full Itinerary – Sri Lanka Wildlife Tour: Searching for Leopards, Elephants and Blue Whales
Arrival / Anuradapura
Our Sri Lanka Wildlife adventure starts when you land at Bandaranaike International Airport, the country’s main international airport, situated 20 miles (33 km) north of the capital, Colombo, on the west coast of the island. The airport is actually in the Katunayake suburb of the city of Negombo.
We will not see much of Colombo, but it is the nation’s longstanding capital, biggest city and most important commercial centre. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. Today it is a popular tourist destination and known for Galle Face Green, Gangaramaya Temple, Viharamahadevi Park, the National Museum, the famous Ministry of Crab restaurant and many fantastic markets.
You will be met by the local guide and driver outside the airport and from here we will make our way to Anuradapura where we will overnight and enjoy dinner.
Wilpattu National Park
With packed breakfast and lunch, we will do a full day jeep safari to Wilpattu National Park. The unique feature of this park is the existence of “Willus” (Natural lakes) – Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. The park is 1,317 square kilometers (131, 693 hectares) and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world-renowned for its leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) population. Other mammals we hope to see include: Water Buffalo, Ruddy Mongoose, Mouse Deer, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Sloth Bear and Tufted Gray Langur.
The Park also hosts many species of birds and we will be on the lookout for: Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Little Cormorant, Sri Lankan Junglefowl, Garganey, Whistling Teal, Asian Spoonbill, Black-headed Ibis, Purple Heron, Greater Coucal, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Green Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Black-capped Kingfisher and the beautiful Indian Peafowl.
We will enjoy the wonderful hospitality at our local lodge while we relax after a successful day of game viewing.
Anuradapura / Sigiriya
This morning after breakfast we leave for Sigiriya. After arrival at our hotel we will freshen up and enjoy lunch at the hotel. We will do an afternoon Jeep Safari in Minneriya or Kawdulla National Park (depending on the Elephant movements).
Minneriya National Park was declared a National Park on 12 August 1997, having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reason for declaring the area as protected is to protect the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population dwelling in forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts. The park provides important habitat for the two endemic Monkeys found in Sri Lanka: Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque.
Large mammals such as Sambar Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer frequent the park. Rare and endangered species such as Sri Lankan leopard and Sloth Bear inhabit in Minneriya. Minneriya is one of the areas where the Gray Slender Loris can be found in Sri Lanka. The Minneriya reservoir is an important habitat for large water birds such as Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Great white Pelican and Ruddy Turnstone. Among the Endemic birds are Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Black-crested Bulbul and Crimson-fronted Barbet all call the park home.
Kaudulla National Park was designated a national park on April 1, 2002 becoming the 15th such area on the island. The wildlife and birding of the park is similar to that of Minneriya and it will depend on local conditions and wildlife movements on which park we shall visit.
Dinner will be enjoyed at our hotel where we will relax and reflect on the days interesting wildlife and bird sightings.
After breakfast we will climb the Sigiriya rock. Sigiriya or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock) is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes.
On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure — Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock. Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
We will return to our hotel for lunch and afterwards do some birding around Sigiriya sanctuary. The sanctuary plays host too many bird species with some of the highlights being: White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle can be seen gliding over the area. In addition, a variety of both common and rare species including Indian Long-tailed Nightjar, Forest Eagle Owl, Asian Openbill, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Orange-headed Ground Thrush, Indian Blue Chat, Brown-capped Babbler, White-Rumped Shama, Black-capped Bulbul, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Brown Flycatcher, Layard’s Flycatcher, Orange Minivet, Small Minivet, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Ceylon Grey Hornbill and the Blue-faced Malkoha.
Early evening we will do a short safari in search of nocturnal mammals found in the area, some of the species we will target include: Grey Slender Loris, Asian Elephants, Fishing Cat, Rusty-spotted Cat, Red Slender Loris, Indian Pangolin, Indian Porcupine and Yellow-striped Chevrotain.
We will once again enjoy the friendly hospitality and comfort of our local lodge.
Sigiriya / Nuwara Eliya
This morning after breakfast we make our way to Nuwara Eliya and will stop on the way to visit a tea plantation. We will stop en-route for lunch and visit Victoria Park late afternoon if time permits.
Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful town, located at 1,868 m (6,128 ft) above sea level, which really shows its colonial roots. It became a popular retreat for British ex-pats due to its cool climate during the hottest season of the year, and it earned its nickname “Little England”. It is also known as “city on a plain” and “city of light”. The town is surrounded by impressive scenery and immaculate tea plantations, and is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka (2,524 m (8,281 ft). There are some beautifully kept gardens in town, along with many impressive colonial buildings. It also has the only remaining horse racing venue in Sri Lanka, the Nuwara Eliya Racecourse.
Victoria Park is an attractive and well-kept public park next to the Tudor-style Nuwara Eliya Post Office. The Nanu Oya River runs through the 11 ha (27 acres) park, creating a number of small lakes. There are also many mature trees next to the river, attracting a host of bird and mammal species. Here we will look for Pied Thrush, Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Slaty-legged and Ruddy-breasted Crake, Forest and Grey Wagtail, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Indian Blue Robin, Brown Shrike, Kashmir Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, Greenish Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and many more.
We will then check into our accommodation (surrounded by woodland and tea plantations and offering stunning views of the town below) for the next two nights, have dinner, chat about our day and the next day’s plans and have a good night’s sleep.
This morning after breakfast we have the full morning to explore Horton Plains National Park. This is a key wildlife area with two distinct habitats: open grassy woodland plains and evergreen subtropical cloud forest. The region was designated as a national park in 1988, mostly to protect the rich biodiversity and high endemism that occurs here. It is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. Early morning visits are best, both to see the birds and wildlife and to view World’s End (a sheer precipice with a 4,000 feet (1,200 m) drop) before mist closes in during the latter part of the morning.
Special mammals that occur in Horton Plains NP include Leopard, Sambar, Purple-faced Langur, Red Slender Loris and Toque Macaque, along with over 20 other species. Nearly 750 species of plants belonging to 20 families have also been recorded in the park. Another attraction is the 20 metre (66 ft) high Baker’s Falls, a waterfall named after Sir Samuel Baker, the famous British explorer.
We will return to our hotel for lunch and in the afternoon visit the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. The beautiful Hakgala Botanical Gardens is the second largest garden in Sri Lanka, situated about 16 km (10 mi) from Nuwara Eliya. The garden is over 150 years old and many folklore tales mention the gardens. It is famous for the number of orchids and roses planted there, and attracts over 500,00 annual visitors.Early evening we return to our hotel for dinner and to relax.
Nuwara Eliya & Udawalawe
This morning after breakfast we will visit Victoria Park and then slowly make our way to Udawalawe. The Queen Victoria Park is situated in middle of the Nuwara Eliya City. This park was named to honor the 60th Jubilee Coronation of Queen Victoria in the year 1897. Originally the park was the research field of Hakgala Botanical Garden. It contains a lot of colorful flowers, and very nice places to enjoy and relax. This park is famous for bird watching and there is a large variety of plants and trees available. Victoria Park comes alive with the flowers from March to May, and August to September. You can see several types of birds in the park which include Indian Pitta, endemic Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka White-eye, Scimitar Babbler and migrant Pied Thrush, Forest Wagtail, Velvet Nuthatch and Indian Blue Robin and Kashmir Flycatcher.
We will stop for lunch en-route. We will enjoy some bird watching just outside Udawala National Park before making our way to our hotel. Udawalawe is also a very good birdwatching site, and holds some scarce bird species like Malabar Pied Hornbill, Blue-faced Malkoha and Barred Buttonquail.
We will return to our stunning hotel (designed to blend into the surrounding landscape) in the late afternoon, enjoy some sumptuous local cuisine in the restaurant, and have a good night’s rest.
Udawalawe & Tissamaharama
This morning we will enjoy a picnic breakfast and a full morning safari in Udawalawe National Park. Udawalawe was established in 1972, mainly to provide a sanctuary for fauna displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River. This extensive (308.21 km2 (119.00 sq mi)) reserve is home to over 250 Asian Elephants and provides an important habitat for water birds. Open grassland plains dominate the topography, although there are also some mountainous areas and marshes along the river too. Species recorded from the park include 94 plants, 135 butterflies and over 40 mammals.
Some special mammals that could be seen here, apart from the elephants, include Leopard (rare), Sloth Bear (rare), Jungle Cat, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Golden Jackal, Sambar, Chital, Southern Red Muntjac, Golden Palm Civet and Indian Hare.
We will make our way to our stunning hotel after a fantastic day in Udawalawe to enjoy the local cuisine, freshen up and enjoy a good night’s rest.
Yala National Park
We have a full day safari planned in Yala National Park. We will enjoy breakfast and lunch in the park while searching for the wide variety wildlife. Yala NP covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds.
Yala National Park has a variety of ecosystems including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, marshes, marine wetlands, and sandy beaches. We will be spending our time searching for Sloth Bear, Leopard, Elephant, and wild Water Buffalo are all threatened mammals that Yala. Other mammals seen in Yala include Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat.
Some of the avian specials of the Yala are the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Brown-capped Babbler. The park plays hostr to some incredible waterfowl with highlights being Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey Little Cormorant, Indian cormorant, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill, Painted Stork, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Oriental Darter, Crested Serpent Eagle, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Indian Paradise Flycatcher Asian barbets, and Orioles.
We will return to our stunning hotel in the late afternoon, enjoy some sumptuous local cuisine in the restaurant, and have a good night’s rest.
Tissamaharama & Koggala
We enjoy a relaxed breakfast and do some birding around Tissamaharama Tanks focusing on any species we might have missed in the area before making our way to Koggala- a small coastal town, situated at the edge of a lagoon on the south coast of Sri Lanka. With its beautiful beaches and crystal clear warm water this is the typical beach scenes we all see on post cards from Sri Lanka.
We will have lunch at our hotel enjoying the views over the ocean before our afternoon visit to the turtle hatchery and the Dutch Galle Fort. We visit the Turtle hatchery near Galle to see various species of Sea Turtles, that being Green Turtle the most common species, Hawksbill Turtle-regular visitor to Sri Lankan waters, Loggerhead Turtle (rare), Olive Ridley Turtle and Leatherback Turtle-rare in Sri Lanka. We then proceed to Koggala to witness Sri Lanka’s most photographed iconic stilt fishermen who sit on perched poles in the shallow water of the Indian Ocean waiting for their daily catch.
Finally we take a relaxed walk to the best preserved colonial fort in South Asia, the Dutch Galle Fort. This magnificent piece of architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage site was initiated by the Portuguese in the 16th century, seeing some of its best days during Dutch rule in the 18th century, until the British took over in 1796. We shall enter the fort through the main entrance which bears the carved logo of the British monarch on the outer wall and the VOC symbol of the Dutch East India Company in the inner wall. Time will be spent observing the magnificent building with its old stone walls, the ramparts, Dutch colonial villas, the clock tower, the Old Dutch Hospital, Dutch period houses, the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church and the old Bread fruit tree, thought to be the oldest bread fruit tree in the country.
We return to our hotel to freshen up, enjoy a wonderful meal and relax after our busy and exciting day.
We have an exciting day planned as we leave for Mirissa with our breakfast packs and have the full morning excursion for Blue Whale and Dolphin watching. A Blue Whale – 30 meters long and weighing over 200 tonnes and the biggest animals that have ever lived on our planet. The Southern coastline of Sri Lanka around Galle and Mirissa is one of the best places in the world to see this iconic species. We will depart on a specialized whale watching boat in search of these amazing oceanic mammals. Other species we will be looking for include up to ten different species of Whale, including Fin, Bryde’s, Minke, Humpback, Sperm, and of course a plethora of dolphins.
We return to our hotel for lunch and have the options to visit the Kirala Kele Sanctuary for some birdwatching or optional activities.
Dinner will once again be enjoyed at our wonderful hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Koggala & Mirissa & Katanuyake
We spend another full morning in Mirissa, Whale and Dolphin watching targeting any of the species we may have missed the previous day. Our picnic breakfast will be enjoyed on the boat trip.
We return to our hotel for lunch and after packing up we make our way to our hotel close to the airport. We will enjoy our last dinner together at our hotel tonight close to the airport.
After breakfast at the hotel we will make the short transfer to the airport in time for your onward international flight and you will leave with some great memories of your time exploring this wonderful island.
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