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Birds & Wildlife Of Sri Lanka

from £2579
A chance to see rare birds, wildlife and whales on this extraordinary holiday in Sri Lanka.
  • Product Code 47360
  • Holiday Type Bird Watching & Walking, Sightseeing And Walking Holidays, Rich In Wildlife Holidays
  • Grade

    Grades 1, 2 & 3 - Leisurely grades

    Grades 4, 5 & 6 - Moderate grades

    Grades 7, 8 & 9 - Challenging grades

    Grade 2
  • Holiday Duration 14 Nights

Guided Walking Holidays - Birds and Wildlife of Sri Lanka

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 an ideal habitat, the time of day is just right 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. Our expert local guide will make sure we see everything possible.

We fly into Colombo and drive for a night between mangroves and the ocean. Then up to Habarana to start our explorations of the highlands. Next morning we continue up to Kandy where activities will include a birding visit to the spectacular Peradeniya botanic gardens, searching for flamebacks, parakeets, Sri Lanka swallow and more. We also have a little time to take in some culture here.

Then on and up through tea plantations to Sri Lanka’s highest town Nuwara Eliya and across to Horton Plains where several endemics can be found such as Sri Lanka whistling thrush, white-eye and soaring raptors. Still in the hill zone we continue to Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a lowland tropical rain forest with endemics such as Sri Lanka blue magpie, frogmouth, red-faced malkoha and green-billed coucal. 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 the Colombo area for our final night before flying home.

On all departures of this holiday to date we have worked with Upali Ekanayake, an acknowledged expert, internationally known and respected in the birding world. Having studied in Sri Lanka, Aberdeen and Cambridge Universities he is very well qualified to guide our tours. If there is a possibility to see a bird Upali is the best man to find what we are looking for.

Holiday Highlights

  • Travel with a local expert birding/naturalist guide throughout.
  • Enjoy a huge diversity of birdlife including 33 endemics.
  • Marvel at Blue Whales at Mirissa - the best place in the world to see them.
  • Scan the bush at Yala National Park for leopards.
  • Photograph elephants at Udawalawe National Park.
The holiday inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What's included in this holiday Items that are covered in the cost of holiday price.

      Return flights from Heathrow to Colombo (Sri Lankan Airlines) or via Muscat (Oman Air)
      Airport transfers 
      Half board en suite accommodation 
      English speaking local guide 
      Entrance fees to all sites mentioned 
      All transport to complete your itinerary. 
Whats not included in this holiday Items that are not covered in the cost of holiday price.

  • Entrance fees to some museums and historic buildings (unless otherwise specified)
  • Personal expenses (such as your bar bill)
  • Discretionary tips
  • Optional excursions
  • Insurance
Please select Departure Date to view:

Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)

Whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the outlined itinerary and advertised programme, local conditions can change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. This may mean that routes and timings need to be amended or the order of days may change, sometimes at short notice.

This departure: Grade 2

  1. Day 1

    We depart on the overnight direct flight to Colombo with Sri Lankan Airlines.

  2. Day 2

    We arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport and transfer the short distance to Minuwangoda. We can choose to relax after the flight or start the bird watching in the grounds of the hotel.

  3. Day 3

    After breakfast we drive to the uplands to Habarana, in the dry zone. The journey should take about 5 hrs with stops. In the late afternoon we will have time to start bird watching in the vicinty of the hotel.

  4. Day 4

    After breakfast in the hotel will have a morning walk in the Sigiriya area. Later in the day those who choose can take an optional visit to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance is not included and will need to be paid locally. Those not wishing to visit will be able to continue bird watching.

  5. Day 5

    After breakfast we drive through the uplands to Kandy, the former capital. On the way we will stop at the Matale Spice garden for lunch (included). In the afternoon we will visit Peradeniya Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of Kandy, a birdwatcher's delight with Alexandrine and Layard's Parakeets, Asian Koel, three species of woodpeckers, and impressive species such as Asian-paradise Flycatcher and Indian Pitta are often present.

  6. Day 6

    After breakfast we drive 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 (included) and a short break, we will take a bird watching walk in Queens Park.

  7. Day 7

    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 endangered Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush - this localized, small bird only frequents mountain streams with dense cover above 800m.

    The landscape here is reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands and the views are outstanding on a clear day. Birds to watch out for include the Pied Bushchat, endemics such as the Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Thrush and the Sri Lanka Bush Warbler. The trail goes through pinewoods where we could find Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Kashmir Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch 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 Sri Lanka White-eye. Areas of scrub and low trees have two of Sri Lanka's rarest endemics, the Sri Lanka Bush-warbler and the Sri Lanka Wood pigeon. We will also look out for raptors including Crested Serpent Eagles and Legge’s Hawk Eagles. 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 Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher and Indian Blue Robin.

  8. Day 8

    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 Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Green- billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Orange-billed Babbler and many more.

  9. Day 9

    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.

  10. Day 10

    Those who prefer can take another pre breakfast trip into the forest. After breakfast we depart for Udawalawe National Park, a dry zone game park, famed 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 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 Kite. Additionally, the tracks attract many species of birds to look out for such as Dark-fronted Babbler, Common and Marshall’s Iora, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Changeable Hawk Eagle and Indian Peafowl. The grasslands are also important for both Plaintive and Jacobin Cuckoos. We stay until dusk at Udawalawe, as it is a reliable area for Brown Fish Owl, a specialty of the park. Among the migrant birds are Forest Wagtail, Indian Pitta and Osprey, as well as waders and terns.

  11. Day 11

    After breakfast we leave for Tissamaharama and check in to our hotel. Later we visit the Tissamaharama tank. The huge lily-covered tank and surrounding farmland are excellent for birds. We expect to locate Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pacific Swallow and Ashy Prinia. This region has the remarkable White-naped Woodpecker and Clamorous Reed Warblers. The local roads also offers bird watching stops, in addition to being an exceptional area for mammals.

  12. Day 12

    Early morning we proceed  to Yala National Park for a Jeep safari. Here we should see Elephant, Spotted Deer and Sambur and there is a good chance of seeing Leopards at dawn. The birds are similar to those at Bundala National Park 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.

  13. Day 13

    At dawn, proceed 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, Greater 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.  Later we leave for our hotel at Weligama, the journey takes just over 2hrs. Here we can enjoy some well earned relaxation time.

  14. Day 14

    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.

  15. Day 15

    This morning after a hearty breakfast, we transfer to Colombo airport for our direct day flight back to the UK with Sri Lankan Airlines.

Travel Details

  • Return flights from Heathrow to Colombo (Sri Lankan Airlines) or via Muscat (Oman Air)
  • Airport transfers 
  • Arrival transfer by road c.30mins
  • Upgrades are available on most flights. For scheduled flights this may be Premium Economy, Business or First Class. Most low-cost carriers also have extra legroom seats.
  • If direct regional flights are not available, we can often offer add-on flights to a London airport at a competitive rate. Please ask us for details and a competitive quote.
  • Visa is required

Trip Map

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Our Accommodation on this holiday

Below is the accommodation featured on this holiday. If you are on a multi-centre holiday, these are highlights of the places where we stay. Please refer to your Holiday Information sheet (which can be found under View Departures & Book), for your departure date and for all your accommodation details.

Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja

The Blue Magpie Lodge is only 5 minutes away from the Sinharaja Rain Forest, and has simple Sri Lankan style accommodation provides an excellent base for exploring the rich nature around the lodge, including a swimmable natural stream. Delicious cuisine is authentically Sri Lankan, and served in an open restaurant with magnificent views, where butterflies and birds flutter about nearby. Friendly staff will add to your stress free and peaceful stay here, in the middle of nature. Rooms are simple but clean and spacious and come with en-suite bathrooms, fans, veranda and mosquito nets.

Ranweli Holiday Village, Waikkal

We stay in good tourist class hotels throughout and a good example is the Ranweli Holiday Village, our first hotel, just 18km from the airport. This eco lodge is a perfect starting point for experiencing the flora and fauna of Sri Lanka, as it is committed to environmental care and ecotourism. The village is set on its own land on a peninsula where mangrove forests and rivers meet the sea, where nature is on your doorstep, making a tranquil setting to help you relax after the long flight to Sri Lanka. Friendly and helpful staff are on hand to make your stay a pleasant one. The restaurant serves excellent Singhalese food as well as international cuisine, and is where we take breakfasts and dinners. You can take a snack or drink at the bar constructed of eco-friendly materials that sits next to the outdoor beach-front pool. The hotel even has its own Ayurvedic centre. Rooms come with private balcony, mini fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, air conditioning, ceiling fan, telephone and safe. The bathrooms are equipped with solar powered water heating. There is also free internet available.